With only six months left in this first decade of the 21st century, the female singer who emerged during this period that has impressed me more than everyone else is Tift Merritt. On the basis of her first three studio albums--2002's BRAMBLE ROSE; 2004's TAMBOURINE; and 2008's ANOTHER COUNTRY--the Texas-born, North Carolina-raised singer/songwriter has proven herself a force to be reckoned with, even if corporate radio won't bite for her. On those albums, she bought together many different outside influences, particularly those of Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Maria McKee, and Sheryl Crow, and combined them with her own unique songwriting abilities to produce an original, roots-rock approach--an extremely rare quality nowadays.
This new album of hers, recorded live last November in Buckingham, England, might very well be considered her "Unplugged" album, since all she relies on, variously, is piano, an occasional harmonica (on the ANOTHER COUNTRY track "Morning Is My Destination"), and, in particular, acoustic guitar. Tift's vocals may be considered fragile in the manner of Emmylou, but in an era of hyper-divas, whether in pop, R&B, or country, such fragility is kind of a welcome throwback to earlier times when honest, no-frills singing was the right thing. Ten of the album's twelve tracks, including "Morning Is My Destination", are from her earlier albums, but Tift throws in two new songs--a rendition of the late George Harrison's "I Live For You" and the brand new songwriting credit "Do Something Good" that spotlights her acoustic side as well as anything anyone else has ever done in this format.
Tift is my pick for Female Artist of The Decade; and this acoustic live album just sealed the deal.