Tift Merritt/ Simone Dinnerstein 'Night' Sony

Tift Merritt has been a wonderful talent on the country music circuit for many years now. With six superb CD releases to her name already, many see her as the natural successor to the great Emmylou Harris in the years to come. Her voice is a revelation to enjoy, so steeped in emotion and inflection and her last release, Travelling Alone, was a standout collection of songs, accompanied by a virtuoso group of coveted musicians.

Simone Dinnerstein is a classically trained pianist of the highest calibre, Juilliard trained and with an impressive international career. The pairing of two such unassociated talents is a strange one to consider and I have no idea as to how the creative muse visited both of these ladies to pair together for this unique project.

The aptly named NIGHT is a perfect title for the reflective, meditative music that ensues with the torch song quality of Merritt’s delivery blending beautifully, with the stream of consciousness playing of Dinnerstein, across the 14 tracks on offer. Indeed it is hard to define where one track ends and another begins, such is the seamlessness of the arrangements and the mood of the entire recording.

As one listens to the CD, there is a sense of bearing witness to a very special piece of work and both talents unite in a spectral vision of a place that few get to visit.

Commencing with the beautiful ‘Only in Songs’, the mood is set for a journey through the darker side of human emotions that includes interpretations of songs by Billie Holiday, Leonard Cohen, Patty Griffin and ending with the Johnny Nash song ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ which brings the conclusion of this song cycle out into the light.

We also get to visit both Schubert and Bach along the way and a fine arrangement of a new Brad Mehldau track, ‘I Shall Weep at Night’. Tift Merritt contributes four original songs of her own, all of which stand tall with the other song selections.

The overall production is one of bare, stripped emotion in both the playing and the soul reflected in these beautiful songs. Never is this more obvious than on the traditional ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ where Tift sings as if it were her last call for understanding in a cold world.

If we were voting on Top 10 favourites for 2013 at this early stage, then this in right there in the top slot. Highly recommended.

Paul McGee