Southern singer-songwriter Tift Merritt has garnered comparisons to Maria McKee, Caitlin Cary, and Lucinda Williams over the course of her decade-plus in the business, and like them, Merritt has had to grapple with how to make a pretty voice and a set of solid country-rock influences into something listeners haven’t heard a thousand times before. On her last album, 2008’s Another Country, Merritt dodged the issue and embraced traditionalism, recording a set of tastefully arranged, vividly soulful ballads and mid-tempo rockers. With the follow-up, See You On The Moon, though, Merritt engages alt-rock super-producer Tucker Martine to bring a little edge, and the collaboration bears fruit from the album’s first song, “Mixtape,” a jumpy little number with a handclap beat, swooping strings, and a muted jump-rope-chant chorus.
A Grammy nomination for Best Country record (for 2004’s Tambourine) notwithstanding, I’m not sure Tift Merritt has ever made a straight country record. Tambourine is best described as a soul record, of all things, while 2008’s Another Country turned to Charlie Sexton for its guitar work. But the “country” label seems to stick, possibly because Merritt’s voice can range from straightforward Linda Ronstadt to ethereal Emmylou Harris. If you try to compare Merritt’s vocals to someone else, you inevitably find yourself shopping in the country genre.
At one point on her disappointing 2008 album, Another Country, alt-country songstress Tift Merritt claims, "It isn't very often that I say just what I mean." Much of the reason for that record's mediocrity can be explained by that line, as Merritt's willowy voice and limp folk-pop hooks found themselves floating off entirely into the ether upon being paired with frustratingly vague, moony lyrics choked with overcooked metaphors ("Night is a gypsy;" "I ran like the wildest horse").