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Tift at 3rd & Lindsley in Nashville, TN on September 26, 2004 - by Matthew Wester

One of the most pleasurable blends of uniquely American music styles is Muscle Shoals-style Southern soul played with twangy guitars and a singer stretching out the vocal phrases with a country drawl. Tift Merritt's new record, Tambourine, is solidly in this genre which obscures the boundaries between country, soul & rock, and the foundational styles that they were formed from. I hoped that seeing it performed live soon after its release when Tift and her band were fresh and excited to be playing these songs might just make for a not-to-be-missed superlative show. And that's exactly what happened on a recent Sunday night in Nashville, TN in front of an attentive crowd. The live setting allowed Tift's powerful and amazing voice to be heard in a pure and direct way that you just don't get from listening to a record. There are other country/soul/rock bands around today, but few of them are playing with the sincere, unrestrained enthusiasm that Tift and her band are. Her band was amazingly tight and deeply in the groove for this being only the fourth show of the tour. They functioned as a collective ensemble, with each player's part being distinct, yet melding together like brilliantly engineered machinery. Imagine five musicians with mastery of their instruments laying down their parts, making strong individual statements yet listening carefully to what the others were playing, making it all fit together without any instrument overpowering any other. The resulting sound was clean without being slick. The band's impassioned performance took the surface sheen of clean production off the studio recordings and replaced it with just the right amount of a raw edge that drew out the lifelike vividness of the songs. With her smile beaming as she rocked out with her red Telecaster, it was obvious that Tift was very excited about playing with these guys. Their blend of feel and technique and attentive interaction is rare to find these days, and it's a huge part of what made the show so powerful. Highlights for me included seeing Tift and Dan Eisenberg (Ryan Adams, Shelby Lynne, Mother Hips) share the keyboard bench. After she broke a string during the first song, she moved over to the electric piano while Eisenberg played Hammond C3 over her shoulder. She rocked and swayed to the sultry, sexy, self-confident groove of "Ain't Looking Closely" while Brad Rice, lead guitar, laid down a great solo that recreated, yet bettered, the studio guitar part. Tift's vocals were perhaps the most powerful on the soulful ballads "Good Hearted Man" and "Still Pretending", the later with its silent pause midway through being the perfect dramatic moment. The funky, strutting "Your Love Made A U-Turn" (she got out three maracas and wrapped them in her hand with a scarf and danced around the stage), the sexy "I Am Your Tambourine" and the gospel/soul rave-up "Shadow In The Way" rocked out with abandon. For an encore, Tift demonstrated her talents at gorgeous harmony singing as she and her bass player, Jay Brown, brought the house to a hushed silence with the emotional denouement of the near-acapella "Supposed To Make You Happy" from her debut album, Bramble Rose. Fans of her older stuff might be disappointed that she is playing almost all of her new record and only a few songs from Bramble Rose, but they might be surprised at how compelling the live performances of the new songs are. This was an amazing show not to be missed by any fans of American roots music and strong-voiced singers. -Matthew Wester, Memphis, TN

posted @ Tuesday, July 24, 2007 7:09 PM by admin

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Tift's taping policy
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Tift's taping policy:

Tift has asked us to put up the taping policy for y'all, so here 'tis:

"The taping policy is open.  No outboard gear that will interfere with any other person's enjoyment of the show, please."

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