Our next match-up in Round One of Montauk Madness pits the legendary Frank Sinatra against the tragically under-appreciated singer-songwriter Tift Merritt. A no-brainer, right? I agree… Tift Merritt advances.
Sinatra acolytes (like my parents) will scoff at this choice, I’m sure. But as much as I love Sinatra’s voice, and his interpretation of classic songs on such albums as Only the Lonely, Songs For Swingin’ Lovers, In the Wee Small Hours and Watertown, I find it hard to vote for a non-songwriter over an excellent and prolific one.
Today wraps up my track-by-track look at Tift Merritt’s latest album, Stitch of the World. I hope it was less taxing for some readers than last year’s Lucinda Williams deep dive.
The album closes with a third song featuring Sam Beam on backing vocals, and as in the other two, his contribution is sublime.
As I mentioned in my first post about Tift Merritt’s Stitch of the World, the album was written in the wake of her divorce. In general, the record is more about the recovery than the break-up, with the exception of today’s SOTD, ‘Eastern Light.’
Again accompanied by Sam ‘Iron & Wine’ Beam, Merritt delivers a gorgeous and haunting elegy to a failed relationship, assigning blame to neither party but longing for a feeling she can never reclaim.
Discussion of Tift Merritt almost always comes around to the question of why she isn’t more popular. Not just on this blog but in most critics’ reviews as well.
It’s not that her fans decry the lack of massive Billboard success, sold-out stadium shows and household name status. I’m talking about a level of popularity that’s somewhere above that of a local bar band.
Just when I was talking about the preponderance of ballads on Stitch of the World, Tift Merritt lets loose with an up-tempo rocker.
‘Proclamation Bones’ is rushed and what passes for grungy in Merritt’s acoustic vocabulary. It’s a sexy stomp through a modern Garden of Eden, continuing the nature theme found on much of the album but giving it a more carnal edge.
Continuing my song-by-song presentation of Tift Merritt’s latest album, Stitch of the World, we arrive at track six, ‘Icarus.’
When I listened to Stitch of the World the first time, I initially felt this song might have been one too many slow ballads in a row. It’s one of the most delicate songs on a very delicate album.
The title track of Tift Merritt’s Stitch of the World zooms out from the more personal focus of the earlier songs and takes a more metaphysical look at the world.
I’ll let Merritt explain the song’s origin in her own words:
The inspiration came when I was in California and had rented a cabin for my 40th birthday. I was looking out the window at one of those surreal California sea cliff views where the stars and the trees were just so startlingly beautiful that it didn’t look real. It looked like some of those old felt cut-outs where you could create your own landscapes. I just started to think about how it looked stitched together and how lucky I was that I was stitched into the picture as well. I asked myself what all of these invisible stitches that hold us together and to each other might look like. Where are all of those invisible seams? Which ones are in our control and which ones are not?