By: Bill Clifford
Sometimes it's necessary to get lost in order to find your way home. Bramble Rose, the 2002 debut from alt-country chanteuse Tift Merritt and its 2004 Grammy nominated follow up Tambourine, thrust Merritt into national prominence. She toured relentlessly in support of both recordings with nary a break. Depending on which report you've read, she then either parted ways with or was dropped from the artist friendly label Lost Highway, as well as the Nashville songwriting scene on which she not only cut her teeth, but also, according to a article in now-defunct Harp Magazine (Feb 2008 Volume 7, Number 1), where she felt "boxed-in."
So, Merritt took an excursion to a far away place. "Life was in disarray," she concedes in the liner notes to Another Country (Fantasy), and home was "no longer easy to find." A two-week sojourn to a friend's house in Paris became an extended stay, where she wrote songs on piano, took pictures and people watched. The end result is Merritt's most personal, literate, stripped down recording to date. It's a mellow record compared to the soulful, horn laden sheen of Tambourine and more introspective than Bramble Rose. Merritt's lyrics – she wrote all eleven tracks – are the focus and her honeyed, pretty and sensitive vocals are the main instrument.
The lovely "Something To Me" opens the CD, Merritt reminiscing about life's minor details – a favorite song taught by her father, the surprise visit of an old friend, living one day at a time - that she's taken for granted. However, on "Broken" the sting of shattered relationships is evident, though she's resilient and keeps getting back on her feet. The achingly beautiful title track, a piano ballad, finds her trying to make sense of the emotional distance that can come between to people in love: "I get lost on the inside too/ How could I make sense to you?/ And when you walk away from me/ You're further than another country/ And I want to go / I want to go too/ I want to go with you."
But, it's not all tearjerkers and lovelorn ballads. The upbeat "Morning Is My Destination" finds the narrator seeking solace and comfort with a man before daybreak. "I Know What I'm Looking For Now" and "Tell Me Something True" will feel most familiar to fans, the former the most countrified track with eloquent slide guitar laid down by guest Charlie Sexton, the latter a possible Tambourine leftover and the only track in this collection with a horn section. "My Heart Is Free" is the most rock oriented track, the song's narrator a shot and killed soldier leaving his reservations behind and making peace with his fate.
Another Country is an exquisite recording from one of today's finest songwriters who may have gotten lost in the shuffle of the hit or miss fortunes of contemporary music. But, as she sings proudly and poignantly on "I Know What I'm Looking For Now," being "a little bit lost here ain't so bad."
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