tiftb&w.jpg
Tift Merritt occupies an odd place in the country music paradigm. She's adorable and her band is polished as a Turtle Waxed Corvair, which is

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Tift Merritt Finds Herself At the Tractor, Amongst the Stars

tiftb&w.jpg
Tift Merritt occupies an odd place in the country music paradigm. She's adorable and her band is polished as a Turtle Waxed Corvair, which is ideal in some settings but made for an awkward fit back when I saw her play Blueberry Hill's Duck Room in St. Louis with Tres Chicas, Caitlin (Whiskeytown) Cary's three-piece which was way more the basement bar's speed. Conversely, Merritt lacks the majesty to enrapture a large crowd, which was evident when I saw her open for Elvis Costello in Denver five years ago.

But last night at the Tractor, the pixie-like Carolina towhead shed all awkwardness and left a respectably-sized--especially for a Tuesday--crowd enthralled.

Assembled near the bar were a host of chicken-fried luminaries, including spawn-of-Emmylou Zoe Muth, No Depression czarina Kyla Fairchild, KEXP Americana hound Greg Vandy, and Head & the Heart/Maldives guitarist Chris Zasche. Onstage, Merritt put on a red dress (baby) and drew heavily from See You On the Moon, her lovely last release. She rotated between playing a battered acoustic guitar and crouching in front of a keyboard with red cloth draped over it, and exuded an energy that tempted me to uncall bullshit on what I'd previously felt were ludicrous comparisons to Lucinda Williams.

Two-thirds of the way through the show, Merritt dismissed the bulk of her band and either flew solo or dueted on a quartet of tunes, including "Sunday," the best song from her debut album. She claimed not to have played it in quite some time, and a pair of rocky starts fraught with lyric amnesia seemed to back this up. But once she got churning, it was pure angelic blues.

Merritt's married to her drummer. This is great for her, great for her drummer, and, in most cases, great for her fans. But sooner or later, it'd be nice to see her take to the road alone, as it'd be wondrous to see what sort of traction she could get by giving herself no choice but to let her considerable talents hog every inch of the spotlight.

 
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