Tift Merritt has outdone herself. She just released the best CD of her career. I am not kidding. Bramble Rose was her ground breaking first release. Another Country equaled Bramble Rose, but it didn’t best it. With the release of Travelling Alone, she has set a new standard for herself. The album is truly a masterpiece in every way.She chose Tucker Martine to produce it. His other credits include My Morning Jacket and The Decemberists. Many of the songs are unembellished and simple. However, they have a feel that is evocative of Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball. There is a subtle dreamy echo on many of the songs, and that sound fits the theme of the album. The title track opens up and lays out an interesting premise. Merritt redefines the word alone. Alone is not isolation. Alone happens in relationships and community. It happens when you are among or with others.
“Drifted Apart” is an excellent emotional but subtle duet with Andrew Bird. In this song there is loneliness is a faltering relationship. In truth our significant others have the ability to make us feel completely insignificant. “I am going to lose everything I love, only for a minute just to be alive”, she sings on “Spring”. Later as the song begins to cut loose with some up tempo ethereal blues riffs she says that “Beauty is defiance in the face of death”. It is a powerful metaphor and certainly not how beauty is thought of by the general public.
In addition to great production, she enlisted an all-star cast of musicians including Rob Burger (Lucinda Williams, Iron & Wine, Rufus Wainwright), John Convertino (Calexico), Eric Heywood (The Jayhawks, Son Volt, Alejandro Escovedo). As for the songwrting, there is only one writer. We can thank Tift Merritt. She wrote them all on her own, but hopefully not alone.