Song of the Day #1,737: ‘Too Soon To Go’ – Tift Merritt

tift_traveling_aloneI’m interrupting today’s Random Weekend choice in order to post an update on the Tift Merritt concert situation I wrote about a couple of weeks back.

My wife and I arrived at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and were directed down a byzantine path toward the Abdo New River Room, a lounge about the size of one of those small side bars on a cruise ship. Fifty or 60 folding chairs were arranged in the middle of the room directly in front of a stage that barely rose above the floor.

At exactly 7:30, a woman’s voice introduced Tift Merritt and — lovely and tiny — she walked on to the stage.

We were in the front row, so we were literally close enough to touch her. This past Easter, my 12-year-old nephew performed a song for us in my parents’ family room. I was sitting closer to Tift Merritt than I was to him.

She spent several minutes tuning her guitar and talking about how she had driven from Tampa Bay that morning. Later she told us she’d been pulled over by a cop for speeding while having a fight on the phone with her husband. She told the officer she was driving south to perform a concert, he asked where her equipment was, and she said it was in the trunk. He asked to see, then let her go after she showed him.

The audience talked back and forth with her at some points during the show, asking and answering questions. It felt like a gathering more than a concert.

I’ve seen Merritt live once before, opening for Elvis Costello, so I knew she was a strong performer. But I wasn’t prepared for the level of passion and intimacy she delivered. Her voice was gorgeous — so much earthier than it sounds on record — and her guitar and piano work was spot on.

She sang one song off-mic (a trick she probably picked up from Costello) and it was heart-breakingly beautiful.

I don’t go to a lot of concerts, in part because I’m not a fan of crowds that seem more interested in a night out with friends than listening to the show. This was the opposite… perhaps the close quarters kept people from daring to do anything but offer their rapt attention, or perhaps everybody else was as taken as I was by the art.

My wife, Alex, who had never heard a note of Tift Merritt before the show, was skeptical going in. But she, too, was gripped by the passion of the up-close performance. I knew she was sold during a performance of today’s SOTD, which Tift explained was about her father. Choked up myself, I looked over to see Alex steadily wiping away tears.

Afterward, I was able to meet Merritt and get a CD signed. I told her that I have a signed copy of her first album as well, which I received seven years ago after that Elvis Costello concert. I even made a joke that earned a laugh and a squeeze of my shoulder.

Best concert ever.

Sometimes I hear the song that you are singing,
Softly out of tune, in broken lines.
I see the truth, the rhythm and the meaning,
And the best I’ll ever be inside in your eyes.

Sometimes you are the dry grass summer orchids,
Sometimes a hawk lonely in its flight.
I don’t know where you end and I’m beginning
Are you awake tonight and looking at the sky?

It’s too soon to go, it’s too soon to go –
Stay a little longer, there’s so much I need to know.
Time is a just our small tracks in the falling snow,
It’s just too soon for you to go.

Sometimes I hear you speak when you aren’t speaking,
Sometimes I feel you hurt, that’s when I cry.
Your kindness is the conscience running through me
And your easy laughter spills across these lines.

It’s too soon to go, it’s too soon to go –
Stay a little longer, there’s so much I need to know.
Time is just our small tracks in the melting snow,
It’s just too soon for you to go.

Sometimes I am just a child of your mercy,
Sometimes a woman softly through the night.
Sometimes I just don’t feel I can keep going,
Because of you, I raise myself and try.

It’s too soon to go, it’s too soon to go –
Stay a little longer, there’s so much you need to know.
Time is just our small tracks in the falling snow,
And it’s just too soon for you to go.

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,737: ‘Too Soon To Go’ – Tift Merritt

  1. Amy says:

    That’s a great idea. I’m storing a guitar in my trunk for the next time I’m pulled over. I might even say I’m Tift; the cop sure as heck won’t know I’m not! :) What an amazing “concert” experience. I’m so glad it worked out that way. Today’s song is a beauty.

  2. Dana says:

    Okay, so Amy will have the guitar in her trunk and I will have the electronic keyboard now sitting in a closet in my trunk. I’m thinking I will tell the cop I’m josh Rouse :-)

    The show sounds amazing. I would love to have that type of intimate experience with an artist I love ( not sure that came out right :-)).

    So what was the joke that got the laugh and shoulder squeeze?

  3. Clay says:

    God, I just noticed that this post was riddled with typos. They’ve been fixed… my apologies.

    Tift sang almost entirely her own material but did perform two covers, one of a Joni Mitchell song and one of an old folk song, ‘Carry On My Wayward Son.’

    While I was talking to her, a man approached and said “What was that one song you played? ‘Carry On My Wayward Son?’ That was beautiful.” As he walked off, I said (as if I were him) “Everything else was crap.”

    Laugh, shoulder squeeze… score!

  4. pegclifton says:

    I, too, love the intimate settings and find that they are the ones that you remember the best. Love this song; it’s touching and sad.

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