Release Date: Jan 27, 2017
Record label: Yep Roc
Tift Merritt has attributed elements of her multifaceted, genre-defying songwriting style to her father's diverse record collection of soul, folk, country and R&B music, but regardless of what label you attach to her music, Merritt's effortless songwriting ability and talent is on full display on her sixth studio album, Stitch of the World. The North Carolina native has been likened to Joni Mitchell and Iris Dement, but much like her previous albums, Stitch of the World runs the gamut from straight-ahead country rock to poignant balladry to Celtic-inspired melodies to deeply felt soul and blues music. The album starts fast with a guitar-driven, Bonnie Raitt-inspired blues number titled "Dusty Old Man," on which Merritt cryptically sings that her "dusty old man" is "mean as a snake.
Given the consistent strength of her recorded work, one of the great mysteries of the 21st century remains: why isn't Tift Merritt a star? Since she made her solo debut in 2002 with Bramble Rose, Merritt has yet to release an album that wasn't great, and she hasn't broken her streak with 2017's Stitch of the World. If there's any explanation for her low commercial profile, it's a matter of her strengths, not her weaknesses -- Merritt stubbornly refuses to dumb herself or her music down, and she has no problem changing up her sound and style within an album, which makes her work a bit more challenging than that of the average chart-topping country or Americana act these days. But there are abundant pleasures to be found in Merritt's lyrical storytelling and splendid voice (which suggests some fortunate blend of Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris), and Stitch of the World once again shows them off to her advantage.
The stories surrounding Stitch of the World, Tift Merritt’s most recent album, make up their narrative, with divorce, relocation, and childbirth at the center of the tale. The influences of and experiences with other musicians like Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam and Hiss Golden Messenger’s MC Taylor fill out a cast for a worthy story. But Merritt’s gift for the record has been to write a series of songs that sound personal without relying on anything autobiographical.
“Love me until the scars are gone,” implores Tift Merritt, less than a minute into Stitch of the World. And it's not the only such reference on the album. “How does the scar forgive the knife?” she wonders on the very next song; on another, she's “bruised up” and “been around the block.” These are songs about being caught in love's rough and tumble, about getting beat up and batted around but living to tell about it.