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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bold Steps for Tift
Tift Merritt's first album, Bramble Rose, was critically acclaimed but fell short of high expectations. This was due mostly to a lack of exposure on any major radio markets. The songs fell between the genre cracks - not quite country enough for country, too little rock and roll for rock. It was generally classified as "alt-country" or "roots." What it really was was...
Published on August 24, 2004 by Kerry Moon

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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, overproduced sophomore effort
Maybe it's that I discovered Tift by way of Bramble Rose, but I have to agree with moose_of_many_water's review above; she's a talented artist but this isn't the album that's going to get her to stardom. It hearkens back too much to Dusty Springfield without ever giving us a reason to think she's found her own voice here. That's not to say this album doesn't have its...
Published on February 13, 2005 by Rob McMillin


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bold Steps for Tift, August 24, 2004
This review is from: Tambourine (Audio CD)
Tift Merritt's first album, Bramble Rose, was critically acclaimed but fell short of high expectations. This was due mostly to a lack of exposure on any major radio markets. The songs fell between the genre cracks - not quite country enough for country, too little rock and roll for rock. It was generally classified as "alt-country" or "roots." What it really was was Tift Merritt's heart and soul laid out in stunning melodies.

With Tambourine, Tift has completely reinvented herself. The album itself is slickly produced, with lots of instruments and lots of backup voices, compared to the simple, naive production of Bramble Rose.

By now you've probably heard the hype, comparisons to Dusty Springfield, Delaney and Bonnie, and Carole King. The comparisons are apt. This is clearly a sound from a more soulful generation.

Fortunately, the heart and soul behind the music is still Tift Merritt. She is a remarkable songstress. And her beautiful voice is captured with remarkable clarity in these recordings.

If you're a big fan of Tift's earlier music, you'll probably need to listen to Tambourine three or four times before you fully appreciate it. If Tift is a new find, you'll probably find yourself singing along with songs like "Good Hearted Man," or "Write My Ticket." You'll get a good chuckle out of "Your Love Made a U Turn." If you're like me, you'll get completely hooked on "Still Pretending." Old fan or new, once you put Tambourine into your CD player, you'll be loathe to take it out.

Given the remarkable variety of Tift's first two albums, one can only hope we don't have to wait another two years to see what she will come up with next.
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57 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Somewhere between Patty Griffin & Sheryl Crow, September 10, 2004
By 
moose_of_many_waters (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: Tambourine (Audio CD)
Tift's first album was a roots-based, singer-songwriter effort made during the afterglow of "Brother Where Art Thou" when Music Row execs thought that Americana music would be embraced by the public. Unfortunately, the hoped for resurgence in roots music fizzled and many albums, including Bramble Rose, failed to sell.

Following in the footsteps of Wilco and Ryan Adams, Tift has moved out of Southern roots-based music with this album in the effort to sell some records. I can't blame any of them for doing this. There's no use making music unless you have an audience to hear it.

Tift Merritt is a fine songwriter with a sweet voice, and a lot of ambition. There's a lot of Memphis-based soul and a lot of 70s based rock and roll on this album, and an overheated production that sounds best when played very loud. At times, the songs on this album are honest, cut through the slickness, and remind me of Patty Griffin at her best. Other times, the songs are shallow, have decent hooks and remind me of Sheryl Crow.

Sometimes the production on this album overwhelms her voice. While a lot of money has been poured into this album, it's not clear to me how it's going to find a major audience. Just how many people are going to buy 70s-based music steeped in Al Green and the Allman Brothers? It's worth noting that one of the fine back up singers on this album, Maria McKee, tried doing this with an album of her own a few years back. It didn't sell.

Being a star requires talent, hard work, a sound right for the times, compromises to your art, and a whole lot of luck. I've been listening to Tift Merritt since she started playing dive clubs in Chapel Hill and Raleigh (she's a great live performer). I know she wants to be a star. I don't think this album has the sound to get her there, but I hope I'm wrong.

P.S. I picked up a vinyl version of this album and it sounds much better than the CD version, which is very brassy. Given that the feel of the album is very much late 60s / early 70s in tone, listening to it on vinyl gives the album a nice context.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very pleasant surprise, December 7, 2004
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This review is from: Tambourine (Audio CD)
I would rank this an unqualified success. Compared to the previous album (Bramble Rose), the producers have miked TM's intense vocals more closely and the result is all gain. "Laid a Highway" and "The Plainest Thing" are songs for the ages. There is a beautiful voice here--but interpretation too, a much less common treasure. A very happy discovery.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Album, Tift's Amazing!, June 17, 2005
This review is from: Tambourine (Audio CD)
North Carolina-bred singer/songwriter Tift Merritt can easily be declared as this generations new version of Carole King or Dusty Springfield. Maybe that sounds a little to extreme for most folks, but with just one listen to Merritt's sweet voice, you can't help but begin to make some sort of comparisons.

Merritt broke through onto the country scene a couple of years ago with her, Bramble Rose, record. Although garnered by many critics as being an impressive debut record, many felt something was lacking in the production of the record. Don't be fooled though with Merritt's new release, Tambourine. It might just be one of this year's greatest surprises. I couldn't put it down once I began my first listen.

Tambourine, is as explosive musically as anything contemporary country music has given us this year. It's like a whirlwind of music from every possible avenue of an artistic discovery. Merritt does an extraordinary job with her mixture of music from everything reminiscent of her sweet southern blues to the pleasant soul voice that she plants into our hearts with every song. Merritt is a plain spoken songstress. She doesn't create anything to fancy and even allows her music to beam a ray of light into our consciousness. It's her own glory to unearth many new intention of how to make her music fun that makes this album such a joy to listen to. That is something to celebrate.

I know it sounds a little cliché by now, but there really isn't a single bad track on this record. Her musical appreciation is something that should not to be taken lightly. I give her a lot of credit finding the right music that fits her well. The beautifully written, Good Hearted Man, isn't just a funny way of maybe paying homage to the late Waylon Jennings, but a deep down and straight forward love song that captures the beauty to how well Merritt can connect with a lyric. Her Van Morrison influence is heavily shown on the track, Late Night Pilgrim. A song that could have well been passed on during Morrison's Moondance years of the early seventies. I also love the country/ rock of, I Am You Tambourine, a classic rock and roll sound with the littlest shades of Jerry Lee Lewis on piano.

Tambourine, is a giant step in the right direction. Tift Merritt is a brilliant songwriter, performer, and singer with a lot more potential that has yet to be seen. I wouldn't be surprised if she blew us all away in the coming years with more fine examples of how well music can be achieved. As for now though, I guess I will just sit back and enjoy these eleven tracks of pure country and rock and roll. God knows, they are worth it!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two For Two For Tift, August 24, 2004
By 
Erik North (San Gabriel, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tambourine (Audio CD)
Although markedly different from her 2002 debut album BRAMBLE ROSE, TAMBOURINE helps to confirm that Tift Merritt is one of the great female singers of this particular time. For this new album, she successfully integrates a funky 1960s/1970s R&B edge, complete with horn sections and gospel-like backup singers, into a mainstream rock mix, and comes up with a hugely successful album.

TAMBOURINE is boosted by twelve highly original songs from Tift, all of which are never less than interesting, and several which stand out--in particular "Good Hearted Man", "Shadow In The Way", and the ultra-quirky "Your Love Made A U-Turn. Not forgetting her rural roots, however, she returns to rural country-rock with "Laid A Highway", a song very much in the Linda Ronstadt/Emmylou Harris tradition. She is aided and abetted here by Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers), ex-Lone Justice drummer Don Heffington, the Texicali Horns, and Lone Justice's great lead singer Maria McKee (who obviously served as a significant role model for Tift). All of this is pulled together with great skill by Tift and her producer George Drakoulias, who also worked on Maria's 1993 solo project YOU GOTTA SIN TO GET SAVED.

Different from its predecessor, to be sure, TAMBOURINE, however, does share at least one thing with BRAMBLE ROSE, in that it is also different from much of the stuff out there now. Tift has now gone two-for-two in the musical arena with TAMBOURINE, easily one of the best albums of 2004.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most fun album of the year, September 1, 2004
By 
This review is from: Tambourine (Audio CD)
If there was a knock on Tift Merrit's lovely first album Bramble Rose, it was that the songs -- a bunch of little jewels -- were over-polished. Even a a little rocker like "Neighborhood" politely layered lyric bite and jangly guitars beneath a mannered lacquer of production.

That's not a problem on this album, so much. On Tambourine, Merrit lets loose: There are bluesy torch songs, throwback rock anthems ("Wait it Out"), joyful love songs ("Tambourine") and a song ("Your Love Made a U-Turn") that basically defies description, except to say that it's perhaps the greatest example of gonzo white girl funk in the history of that genre.

The real fun in this album -- aside from the unfettered joy of the runaway harmony singers, the ebuilllient organs, the horn solos -- is wondering at the difference between the first and second albums. The effect is something like watching a Student Government president getting trashed, letting her hair down & dancing on the tables -- even if the moves occasionally misfire, you have to admire the abandon. Did she find love? Her old Carole King CDs? I like to think that maybe it was the influence of Maria McKee -- in a sort of "Aunt Buck" role -- in all her howling, messy joy, that loosened her up. In any case, get this album -- it's one of the most fun of the year.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a new voice emerges, September 3, 2004
By 
Simon Crowe (Greenville, SC United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Tambourine (Audio CD)
I heard "Stray Paper", the first track on this wonderful CD, on the radio, and when I opened up the CD I was expecting to hear some more Lucinda Williams-ish country/rock. There's some of that here, buut there's also quite a bit of soul & R&B influence as well, and the overall feeling is of listening to a great lost album from the '70s, even though Merritt is a young artist.

Horns and keyboards figure prominently on several tracks, and one of the highlights is the album's closer, "Shadow in the Way", a rollicking gospel-flavored number that features vocal support from the Abrahams Victory Voices Choir. The lineup of musicians is also impressive - Heartbreaker Mike Campbell plays guitar, Maria McKee and Gary Louris (Jayhawks) provide backing vocals, and Robert Randolph contributes pedal steel on "I Am Your Tambourine".

This is an excellent CD which will be particularly heartening to anyone who, like me, gets depressed about the state of contemporary music. Recommended for fans of Lucinda, Bonnie Raitt, Norah Jones, Maria Mckee, Van Morrison, and anyone interested in great new artists.

Best tracks: "Stray Paper", "Aint Looking Closely", "I Am Your Tambourine", "Shadow in the Way"....but really this CD rocks from start to finish.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Merritt Shakes It, August 29, 2004
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This review is from: Tambourine (Audio CD)
An outstanding second CD by this superb singer-songwriter. Tift Merritt's blue-eyed soul style is a throwback to the great R&B of the 60s and 70s. She's staked her claim to be the next big thing.

Her voice is one part Lucinda Williams and one part Janis Joplin. Her musical style is Bonnie Bramlett, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Aretha Franklin -- and, occasionally, Carol King. She could have a long career as a song-writer... but the girl can turn plaintive on one song, and belt it out on the next. You'll be shaking your tambourine too.

The songs on the CD are almost uniformly strong lyrically, with great musical hooks. Expect to hear the soul romp "Good Hearted Man" to get major airplay on adult contemporary stations.

Her backup band smokes; led by Mike Campbell on lead guitar, they sound like the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. On "Ain't Looking Closely", the smoky minor chord progressions and Brandon Bush's Hammond B-3 organ sound remind me of something like Al Green's "I'm still in love with you."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second time coming, August 24, 2004
This review is from: Tambourine (Audio CD)
Tift Merritt's second album TAMBOURINE was well worth the wait. I was impressed with her debut album, BRAMBLE ROSE. Unfortunately, that album never really found an audience. This album is just as good, if not better. I find the sound on this album is more evolved, and overall just pleasant from start to finish. There's a lot more uptempo material here, but still brilliant lyrical moments that are poignant and touching. The album starts off strongly with the opening track
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong 2nd Album from Tift, August 29, 2004
By 
M. Wilson "holzhaacker" (Atlanta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tambourine (Audio CD)
After hearing/owning Bramble Rose, I hurried out to get this one when I heard it had hit the stores. And indeed, it proves to be a worthy follow-up to her first CD. The sound is more sophisticated and more sensual. And some of the songs here represent clear steps forward in songwriting for Tift Merritt. My only complaint on this album is that it seems to be reaching just a bit too hard for that "Dusty in Memphis" white-girl soul. On the last album, it worked on the song "Sunday" because it was a more subtle, slow-burning type of soul that better suits Tift's voice. Here, at times, the soulfulness of the album comes off a litte forced. But if you can get past that, the songs are good stuff. My personal favorites are "Laid a Highway" "Stray Paper" and "Aint Lookin Closely"
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Tambourine
Tambourine by Tift Merritt (Audio CD - 2004)
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