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Buy Bramble Rose

Tift Merritt
Bramble Rose
label: Universal
our score: 2.5 out of 5.0

Get Tift Merritt sheet music and guitar tab!

Sittin' on the Fence
by: geoff ashmun

For every mediocre female singer-songwriter whose record I’ve endured looking for that Sam Phillips or Gillian Welch in the rough (and it’s getting rougher all the time), Sarah McLachlan moves a step further up my shit list. The female singer-songwriter explosion in the 1990s brought about in large part by the multi-platinum success of Fumbling Toward Ecstasy came as both a blessing and a curse to younger generations bereft of any worthwhile musical icons. On the one hand, the ground was softened for the likes of P.J. Harvey, Liz Phair, Ani Difranco, Fiona Apple and a few other provocative songstresses, who at the very least proved that there was more to white woman’s music than material girls in a material world.

The flipside, of course, was this tremendous glut of insipid crooners too numerous to mention here (see Lilith Fair), but suffice it to say that Jewel, Joan Osbourne and Meredith Brooks were just the tip of the iceberg. But because of their immediate transparency, they never really posed a problem for critics, right? Sheryl Crow’s single-minded ambition to party until sunrise on Santa Monica Boulevard wasn’t exactly inviting deep analysis and discernment.

The trouble with Tift Merritt is how she teeters on the fence separating these two camps, neither crossing the threshold of interesting, nor embarrassing herself. The polished, country-tinged pop of her debut, Bramble Rose, simply doesn’t boast the craft to set it apart as anything more than a “nice,” but ultimately disposable record.
And by the way, that’s saying something, considering Merritt’s backing band features the likes of Heartbreaker Benmont Tench and dobroist Greg Readling.

It’s tempting to blame the producer for squandering such talent. Ethan Johns does make some questionable calls. Pedal steel driven songs like “Diamond Shoes” and “I Know Him Too,” in which Merritt warns of an untrustworthy lover, evoke the passionless gloss of “Take It Easy”-era Eagles, rendering the song’s otherwise solemn content ineffectual.

When she sings, “I guess no one told you nobody could hold him/I guess his whispers still sound true/and his secrets are still the same as the ones I knew,” there’s as much pathos and conviction as a soap opera. But the fault doesn’t lie so much in Merritt’s vocal delivery as the choice of arrangement, which robs the writing of any appropriate gravity.

Sparser, subtler arrangements, such as on “Sunday” and “Are You Still in Love with Me?” work precisely because they provide a context for the lyrics, an atmospheric underpinning for Merritt’s mournful vocals, which is by far her greatest asset. Although a bit more countrified and earthy, she suggests a bit of the ethereal blues of Emmylou Harris.

That said, Tift Merritt has a long way to go before she deserves anything but a superficial comparison to Harris, but scoring a Daniel Lanois or Malcolm Burn to work the boards, a move that worked brilliantly for Harris in the mid-’90s, could be just the trick to springboard her career. Otherwise, records like Bramble Rose, while far from disastrous, lack the originality to distinguish them from the Nashville throng.
30-Apr-2003 9:20 AM

Download Tift Merritt Sheet Music, Guitar Tabs, or Lyrics at musicnotes.com!

If you liked Bramble Rose...

1. Trouble Over Me
2. Virginia, No One Can Warn You
3. Neighborhood
4. Bird of Freedom
5. Bramble Rose
6. I Know Him Too
7. Sunday
8. Supposed To Make You Happy
9. Diamond Shoes
10. Are You Still In Love With Me
11. When I Cross Over