Song of the Day #434: ‘Broken’ – Tift Merritt

merrittTift Merritt is the only artist in my collection who I’ve actually spoken to in person. At least I think so… and I guess if I met somebody famous and it made so little an impression on me that I can’t remember it anymore, it probably shouldn’t count anyway. But I certainly remember my encounter with Merritt, brief and innocuous as it was.

That momentary proximity to her is no doubt the biggest reason I find her so sexy. It makes her real in a way no other woman in my collection is real… and real is sexy. It also has a lot to do with the energy she brings to live performances and even more to do with her voice. She really is the total package in terms of songwriting chops, vocals and stage presence. I have no idea why she isn’t a big star.

My guess is mainstream success has evaded her because her music isn’t easy to categorize. Her first album, Bramble Rose, was released on a country label and had its share of country tunes, but an equal number of singer-songwriter ballads and light rock. Her second album, Tambourine, must have thrown that country following for a loop… it’s a blast of Muscle Shoals soul and R&B that, despite lavish critical praise, couldn’t find a home in CD bins or on the radio. That’s one of my favorite albums of the past decade and, despite a Grammy nomination, it didn’t even crack the charts.

Oh, and she also reminds me of Connie Britton, or more accurately, Tami Taylor (Friday Night Lights). And that’s saying something.

Once you were a straight shot, a shiny quarter in a new slot
Night would keep the dreams that you got for afternoon
Then telling the truth got so hard, we were dancing in the backyard
Once I knew the end and the start, but now that’s through

Now you’re broken and you don’t understand
What is broken falls into place once again

So morning comes to clean up like nothing happened when your heart stopped
Like all the lawyers calling all cops to wave days through
Just close your eyes for this long, something’s mixed up and something’s gone
Only fingers can you count on, and one leaves two

Now you’re broken and you don’t understand
What is broken falls into place once again

And it’s these most loved losses, they are just old coin tosses
And these most loved losses are the hardest to carry

I wish I were a freeway laid out clearer than a bright day
I’d run wide open down this causeway like brand new
Singing louder than the whole block, all my love would be a straight shot
Night would dream the dreams that I got, and so would you

But I’m broken and I don’t understand
What is broken falls into place once again
Hand of kindness, come and gather me in like a rainstorm,
Again and again and again,
I think I will break but I mend

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #434: ‘Broken’ – Tift Merritt

  1. Amy says:

    If she’s earned lavish critical praise,a Grammy nomination, a continued relationship with a label that releases her albums, then I’d say she’s pretty successful. How many “big stars” are there, after all? Ben Folds isn’t one. Lyle Lovett isn’t one. Do you think Tift Merritt is more worthy of stardom because of the way she looks?

    I like her music a lot, but then I’ve always been a big fan of singer songwriters cut from this cloth – Sara Hickman, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin – singers with that clear, gorgeous voice, great, original lyrics, and a sense of whimsy in their songs – hybrids of country, pop, folk. None of those women has achieved stardom, either. And that’s probably one of the things that’s enabled them to continue to make the kind of music we love.

  2. Clay says:

    I think Ben Folds, Lyle Lovett and Tift Merritt are all equally worthy of stardom. The first two have achieved more of it than she has, though, if only by a small degree. I’m guessing more people have heard of them than have heard of her.

  3. Dana says:

    I think Amy makes an excellent point. There really are not many singer songwriters since the late 60’s and 70’s who have become “big stars.” You could add to the list Randy Newman, Rufus Wainwright, Fiona Apple, and many other great songwriters who would be lucky to sell out a small amphitheater. They are all worthy of much greater recognition than they receive. Had these artists been recording in the 70’s, I suspect they would have had far greater commercial success–similar to Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Elton John, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Van Morrissen, etc… but the industry has changed and shifted.

    Still, as Amy says, so long as Tift has a record label willing to put out her work, and a faithful core audience eager to listen, she has achieved some level of success.

    This SOTD, by the way, is really great (yes, Clay, I am acknowledging appreciation for a country song!). Tift is definitely a talent and it doesn’t hurt that she looks like Connie Britton either. Sexy indeed!

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