Even though Tift Merritt hasn’t yet achieve the commercial success her early albums predicted, she has lost none of her skills as a singer and songwriter. That lack of charting sales has meant that she has shuffled through a series of labels to arrive at her present home with YepRoc, one of the indie labels that still cares for artistic concerns.
Given all that, Tift has gather around her a set of exemplary players which includes Eric Heywood on steel, banjo and guitar, Calexico's John Convertino on drums and Marc Ribot on guitars and ukelele. Producer Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket andThe Decemberists are among his previous charges) brings a sharp focus to the sound that allows Merritt's emotional charged voice take centre stage.
The title indicates a sense of isolation which runs through these songs. The songs are revealing yet still have an opacity that allows individual interpretation. Titles like Drifting Apart, Still Not Home and Traveling Alone deal with different aspects of being away from home and heart, though as Tift clarifies she was not alone on her travels due to friends and family.
The uptempo Still Not Home has a rocking feel that underlines the need of urgency to get to that place of refuge. Drifting Apart talks of a slow disintergration of a relationship that is underlined by Andrew Bird's counter vocal. Too Soon To Go has a distinct poignancy that can be read as a reference to a person's passing or that of a missed friendship, or both. Tift has the vocal skill to make these songs universal and sympathetic to the listener who can draw much from the album's overall sense of place, even if that place is shifting as the singer continues her travel. Small Talk Relations uses strings to good effect ona slow ballad of seeking something more than just small talk to sustain a conversation. Tift delivers a powerful vocal for the song. In these players she has a sympathetic set of musicians to give flesh to her songswhich deserve far greater exposure that she has received in the past. That is apart from those who have traveled with her from the start and have always enjoyed her company.