By Tift Merritt
Tift Merritt you may ask - who the hell is that? Well, Tift Merritt is a country singer-songwriter hailing from North Carolina who has attracted the attentions of Ryan Adams and Ethan Johns no less - who produced this brilliant debut album. And she's not exactly an overnight success - Uncut was raving about her a couple of years ago.
All the songs on this album are exquisitely crafted, and brilliantly produced. The arrangements are understated and do not fall into the trap of being too syrupy, and the un-fussy backing band are superbly tight. Her own influences are said to be Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt - and you can certainly hear these... but when I listen I can also hear early Sheryl Crow in there, and maybe a smattering of Tanya Tucker and Maria McKee. But she writes her own songs - melodic heart-wrenching stuff as you'd expect from an album which has the "country" tag on it. And a voice to die for - if angels can sing she is an angel. A couple of stand out songs "Virginia, No One Can Warn You" and "Bird of Freedom".
This is an artiste to watch - if she can capitalise on this superb debut album without drifting into mainstream country, she will be a worthy successor to her heroes. And Sheryl had better watch out as well... This album would grace and collection.