Tift Merritt Traveling Alone

Exactly a decade ago, Merritt's debut album, Bramble Rose, received many rave reviews. Now on her third record label, she hasn't quite fulfilled all the potential it suggested, but she comes up with another winner on this, her fifth studio album. Emmylou Harris remains a valid reference point, given Merritt's vocal purity, but Merritt often veers out of country-folk terrain, to striking effect. "Still Not Home" is spirited country-rock, while there is some sizzling rock guitar on "To Myself." She's not travelling alone musically though, and the high-calibre supporting cast includes Marc Ribot, John Convertino (Calexico), Eric Heywood (Son Volt) and Andrew Bird, with Tucker Martine (the Decembrists) on hand as producer. Recorded live-off-the-floor over eight days, the record has a warm and immediate sound. Highlights of the consistently impressive release include the sparse opening title cut and a haunting ballad duet on "Drifted Apart." (Yep Roc)