Rising Stars [Issue
Highways And U-Turns By
of modern communication cant deter Tift Merritt. During a phone interview
from her home in North Carolina, she spells out a name for the sake of accuracy,
remarking, The devils in the details. Then her cell phone
cuts out-but its not long before shes back on the line, clarifying
the story that Ryan Adams discovered her for Lost Highway Records.
a little bit more roundabout than its actually portrayed, she says.
Ryan - and a lot of other people - told Frank Callari about me and Frank
became my manager. Frank was eventually one of the founders of Lost Highway.
Tift (her real middle name) Merritt has done two albums for Lost Highway: 2002s
Bramble Rose, which won critical praise, and Tambourine, which will
be in stores this month. Where her first outing was compared to Emmylou Harris
and Lucinda Williams, Tambourine will be more difficult to categorize.
Plaintive ballads like Laid the Highway, alternate with upbeat Memphis-flavored
numbers like I Am Your Tambourine. Tift wrote all the songs except
for the rousing Your Love Made A U-Turn, a well-chosen cover
from the late R&B artist James Carr.
I dont think my music has ever been pure country by any stretch
of the imagination, Tift says. She has always enjoyed R&B. Growing
up, my father played guitar and piano by ear and he would get me to sing harmony
with old Percy Sledge songs, Otis Redding songs. Still, as a native of
what is known as The Triangle, an area of North Carolina encompassing
Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham, she absorbed the twangy sounds
of pedal steel guitars and was influenced by Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, and other
Two of her heroes appear on Tambourine. Gary Louris of the Jayhawks and
Lone Justice lead singer Maria McKee sing backup vocals on several tracks.
Im lucky enough to have met Gary a couple of times and he and Maria
have worked with George [Drakoulis, her producer] in the past, so thats
how I got them. Drakoulis has also worked with Tom Petty and was able
to get Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell to sit in.
Stand by for Tift Merritt to tour soon. But as she says of Tambourine:
I know that its easier to listen to a record than go to a live show.
But this is a lot closer to the energy that weve always tried to bring