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Tift Merritt

See You on the Moon – 2010 (Fantasy)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Tift Merritt

With each successive album, Tift Merritt has revealed more of her nuanced songwriting presence and considerable musical skills. On Merritt's almost universally acclaimed debut, 2002's "Bramble Rose," she introduced herself with songs that played to her folk/alt.country singer/songwriter strengths, while her sophomore album, 2004's "Tambourine," found her folding in more rock and soul influences, and with 2008's "Another Country," Merritt showed her evolution toward the kind of pure musical excellence that Emmylou Harris has perfected.

Merritt's fourth studio album and second for Fantasy, expands on the creative growth of "Another Country" with another emotionally wrought set of intimately universal songs. Along with her longstanding band and kindred soul producer Tucker Martine, Merritt has crafted an album that synthesizes all of her amazing skills into her fourth consecutive stellar album. Mixtape opens the album like a cross between 10,000 Maniacs and Shelby Lynne as she extolls the analog joy of the old school homemade cassette while Engine to Turn, All the Reasons We Don't Have to Fight and Papercut quiver with the kind of emotional and lyrical intensity that has marked Kathleen Edward's similarly toned work. And the album's two most poignant songs of loss, Feel of the World and the title track, are both soul-searing evocations of Harris' flawless songcraft.

With "See You on the Moon," Tift Merritt solidifies her growing reputation as an astonishingly gifted and intuitive songwriter and hints at the very real possibility that her creative range varies narrowly between really good and great.