PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Tift Merritt: Stitch of the World

Tift Merritt puts forth a vision that's as unguarded as it is unlimited.

Tift Merritt

Stitch of the World

Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2017-01-27
UK Release Date: 2017-01-27

The stories surrounding Stitch of the World, Tift Merritt's most recent album, make up their narrative, with divorce, relocation, and childbirth at the center of the tale. The influences of and experiences with other musicians like Iron & Wine's Sam Beam and Hiss Golden Messenger's MC Taylor fill out a cast for a worthy story. But Merritt's gift for the record has been to write a series of songs that sound personal without relying on anything autobiographical. There's no reason to try to read the artist into the album, and yet the songs are individual, a capturing of Merritt's vision that's unguarded and inviting without being limited.

“Love Soldiers On” could serve as a guiding focus. It's a classic country song with a straightforward encouragement. It's a natural sentiment in its way, but Merritt's delivery and her sturdy arrangement keep the song confident without losing a grounding in realism. It sounds like optimism learned in challenging circumstances rather than read on a poster.

If Merritt's tightening her writing, it might be connected to following some good inspiration. One of the album's highlights, “My Boat” is a reworking of a Raymond Carver poem of the same title. Rather than setting his words to music, though, Merritt's whittled it down to a precise statement of the significance of the vessel -- best captured as “no one will be denied on my boat” -- delivered over a rolling beat. It feints at the anthemic while creating an earworm while feeling effortless.

The album as a whole sounds easy but never simple. Guitarist Marc Ribot and pedal steel player Eric Heywood fit their parts together to create most of the atmosphere, with Ribot's work remaining as restrained as it is smart. Drummer Jay Bellerose keeps his playing unobtrusive but unpredictable, keeping the album familiar within its creativity.

“Stitch of the World” puts the pieces together. The music has more pieces than are initially noticeable, everything locking together to help Merritt develop a complex bit of imagery. The band shows its flexibility with an almost-rocker like “Proclamation Bones” or the bluesy groove of “Dusty Old Man”. It's a group as comfortable with each other as they are with following Merritt's direction.

The final three songs feature Beam, who's developing his skill as a duet partner (see last year's album with Jesca Hoop). The three tracks explore sudden happiness, backward-looking sadness, and dreamy hope. Closing number “Wait for Me” marks a fitting end for the album, declaring a willingness to “do right” in partnership, sung clearly as a pair. Through struggle and change, Merritt's willingness to push through regret to something brighter echoes back as an acknowledgment that love does indeed soldier on, not without effort or trial, but in a way that allows us to keep pushing for something better. It's strong finish to an album that -- biography aside -- reveals the strength of merging personal vision with cooperative expression.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.