You're more likely to have heard of Tift Merritt than to have actually heard her music. With fellow Lost Highway labelmates like Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams and Kim Richey, buzz from live performances at South by Southwest and Merlefest, and more press than an artist with scant recorded output would regularly attract, Merritt has one of the most highly anticipated debut records of 2002.
This mostly backs up the pre-release hype. Merritt is indeed a compelling live performer, and at its best the record reflects her strengths well. With a voice reminiscent of, but less tremulous than Emmylou Harris, and an evocative songwriter (of all the record's 11 songs), Merritt scores on the winning opener, "Trouble Over Me," and the stinging rocker "Neighborhood." "I Know Him Too" is exemplary of the rock solid accompaniment that her capable backing band, The Carbines, provide. Things bog down when the songs overstay their welcome - two tracks weigh in at more than six minutes, which does the concise writing a disservice. But after all, this is a convincing demonstration that all the talk about Tift Merritt wasn't cheap.