A LONG-TIME friend and favourite of fellow North-Carolinian Ryan Adams, Tift Merritt is far from the first American singer-songwriter in the Joni Mitchell/Emmylou Harris tradition to try and turn alt-country scene acclaim Stateside to international breakout success.
Oran Mor, Glasgow
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But where, five albums into her career, she might still be struggling to find a way to stand out, on this evidence she’ll never lack for sheer uncomplicated likeability. Merritt showed an intuitive understanding of how to flatter a Scots crowd straight off here, by explaining that – viewing us through an American prism – she likes to think of Scotland as “the south” of the UK. “Everyone knows all the good stuff is down south,” she added, to hoots of approval.
Backed dextrously by a four-piece all-male band, her songs laid on the charm with a similar lightness of touch. Openers Engine To Turn and Sweet Spot both bore the kind of breezily enamouring choruses you can imagine hogging the radio all day long. An unplugged middle section featuring a cover of Tom Waits’ Train Song, and the prettily plaintive Drifted Apart, saw a hush descend on the room broken only by the ringing of the bar till.
Big of hair and guitar strum and deliciously smoky of voice, she’s the kind of performer who’ll kick up her heels even when rooted to a piano, and never lacked for presence. It’d be nice to see a little more adventure in Merritt’s songwriting yet, but regardless, she deserves to be warmly welcomed back in “the south” of the UK many times to come.