Tuesday, June 27, 2017
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Subject: New album: 'Stitch of the World'
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Mitch Kokai

01/27/2017 10:37 AM  

If you know this gentleman's language, you can tell us whether he's offering a positive review.

Mitch Kokai

01/27/2017 10:41 AM  

Elmore Magazine offers a generally positive review:

The album’s first single and leadoff track, “Dusty Old Man” is a bluesy shuffle, giving the initial impression that this might be a bouncy album in the vein of Tambourine. However, there are ballads, introspective passages, and a whole range of emotions from heartbreak to joy over the course of the 38 minutes. The energy of “Dusty Old Man” is balanced by Merritt’s piano-driven “Heartache Is An Uphill Climb,” which begins softly before building into a steady chorus-driven tempo. The title track is a rather ethereal piece containing some of her best poetic lyrics. For example:

“White is the quick of the loom and the pin/Red is the mark where the needle comes in/As it weaves through your heart, try not to be scared/Just a bird on a string in a blanket of air.” “Icarus” has a similar feel, while the last three tunes are done with Sam Beam, who duets on “Something Came Over Me.”

Welcome back, Tift Merritt. This probably won’t excite us like her breakthrough debut, Bramble Rose, because we’ve become familiar with Tift as one of Americana’s distinctive voices. In places it’s slick, making one long for the earlier days. Nonetheless, it’s rewarding to see the maturity in her approach and her deft, often subtle musical touches.

Mitch Kokai

01/27/2017 1:58 PM  

CMT.com interviews Tift about the new album.

CMT.com: Are you seeing the world through a different eyes raising your daughter?

Merritt: That’s almost an understatement. I revert back to I am who I am, but having a child, I didn’t know I would like it so much. I really and truly would settle down on the farm and have five more if that was in the cards.

How do you perfect your use of words in music?

My first love is really writing, and that’s my way into songs. I feel really at home writing prose. … When I write music and when I write prose, there’s rhythm, melody, excitement and tension. You just have to give yourself time most of all.

What was the hardest song to write?

I think the hardest one to write was “Stitch of the World.” I spent a lot of time on the lyrics — not so much in a difficult way — just trying to get them right. “Eastern Light” was a hard one to write because I think really straight forward songs are often really emotional to write. So I think maybe that one was somewhat difficult.

How does writing about love and heartache help you understand it more?

Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s just digging a hole. It really depends on where your heart is. It’s about being honest with yourself — whether you’re covering terrain you’ve already covered — and it helps if you’re asking the right questions. If you’re just beating the shit out of yourself, that’s not really helpful. If you’re just mad at someone else, that’s not generally helpful, either.

Mitch Kokai

01/27/2017 6:02 PM  

Mxdwn.com offers another positive review:

As an accomplished and renowned artist in alt-country and indie folk circles, singer-songwriter Tift Merritt doesn’t have anything left to prove to the music world about her talents and style. But this doesn’t mean that her heart and soul aren’t still being poured into her work. Her latest album, Stitch of the World, is a lush and lovely chapter in her ongoing story, one that features moving and emotional ballads, rollicking blues moments and a rough-around-the-edges type of tenderness.


The rawness and complexity are clear from the outset, as woodblock-sounding, backup, auxiliary rhythms kick in on album opener “Dusty Old Man.” The song’s a profile of a man who is “mean as a snake,” but there is nothing mean about this sound, which is instantly warm and familiar. On track two, Merritt lets the soulful part of her voice shine in a beautiful, uplifting track about overcoming odds. “Heartache is an uphill climb,” she says, while letting piano chords and meaty guitar parts overlap each other in a slow build to a climactic chorus.

However it may ache at some times, Merritt’s heart is at its most open on “My Boat,” a touching tribute to those she loves and the way she wants to take them with her everywhere. It’s a little slice of paradise that she describes as the kind where everyone is happy, safe and together in a journey. And it’s the kind of song that would make for an excellent live performance, with layered strings and echoes, plus the titular hook.

Mitch Kokai

01/29/2017 6:48 PM  

American Songwriter gives the album four out of five stars.

Very few artists can run the gamut between Dusty Springfield and Joni Mitchell as effortlessly as Tift Merritt. Those skills are on excellent display in Stitch Of The World, her latest album. It’s a very simple formula for success: Put Merritt in front of a crack band, keep the production subtle, and let her do her thing. Of course, that formula only works to this extent when you have a songwriter and performer with such copious talents.

Stitch Of The World begins with Merritt at her feistiest, as she settles in behind a Buddy Holly rockabilly stomp for “Dusty Old Man,” an ode to grizzled experience. With the exception of that song and “Proclamation Bones,” she mostly stays on the softer, more contemplative side of the musical spectrum. But even at that slower pace, the title track, with its New Age vibe, represents the only instance where one of these songs seems to meander.

Merritt is at her best with some of the more soulful numbers. On “Heartache Is An Uphill Climb,” she soars through the chorus, her vocals in the upper register taking on a little Dolly Parton quaver that demonstrates just how true that song title is. On “Love Soldiers On,” that most cherished of emotions turns out to be quite resilient, especially with Merritt voicing its adventures.

Mitch Kokai

01/31/2017 7:08 AM  

Salon has kind words for Tift.

Merritt has released consistently strong recordings, put on persuasive and charming live shows, and written dozens of fine songs. She has changed labels, wandered the world, and experienced the kinds of ups and downs that seem required of country musicians.

Overall, Merritt has remained both earthy and eclectic throughout. When I interviewed her years ago, the subject she leaned into the hardest was that she didn’t want to be confined to a single genre or tradition but wanted to roam across several the way Van Morrison had. Sort of hard to argue with that, though not every musician can pull off that kind of stylistic rootlessness. She can. ...

... The new record, “Stitch of The World,” takes her in a folkier direction. She is, as usual, in good company here, with Beam producing and peerless jazz/ experimental guitarist Marc Ribot along for the ride.

The finest songs are the three acoustic numbers near the album’s end — “Something Came Over Me,” “Eastern Light,” and “Wait for Me” — where she is accompanied by Beam. But the whole damn thing is good and some of it is great. Yearning, mournful, assertive, exalting, her persona is complex and rounded in a way few female musicians in any genre manage to be in 2017. ...

... Merritt has clearly been through a lot. But what comes across listening to “Stitch of the World,” and reflecting on the range of locations and musical styles that she’s inhabited, is not the ravages and unexpected shifts she’s experienced. Instead, it’s how consistent and indomitable she seems. The world has thrown a lot of good and a lot of bad at Tift Merritt, and she’s made music out of all of it. Love soldiers on.

Mitch Kokai

01/31/2017 11:35 AM  

The Spectrum features this great headline:

Tift Merritt is still one of America's best songwriters

Tift Merritt is one of the most underrated singer-songwriters in America. She consistently turns out some of the best albums in modern music without much attention from the mainstream.

Her latest work, “Stitch of the World,” is further proof of her impeccable genius. Like her past work it’s full of sweet melodies and some of the best lyrics you’ll find from anyone in modern music. Much is made of songwriters like Lucinda Williams, and rightfully so, but Merritt’s name should appear on any list of the best songwriters in the business. ...

... In fact, there’s not a song on “Stitch of the World” that isn’t a fine example of songwriting excellence. That’s why it’s an early frontrunner for one of the best albums of 2017.

Peter Rusam

01/31/2017 11:27 PM  

 Thanks a lot for all the reviews! As I know the gentleman's language I can brief you on what he says: The album would be released not until next month, but as it would be his album of the month already he highly recommends it. He praises her sensitivity and bemoans that she is not as popular as she deserves to be. He tells about one live album (two, as far as I know...), that she has moved back to Virginia (haha) and separated from a friend who would be the father of her baby (well...). Apart from the mistakes he praises "Stitch..." and Tift's enormous talent for songwriting and singing. I agree emphatically, SotW is breathtakingly good.

Lucky me: Last Saturday I was at her concert in Amsterdam, oh boy, she and Eric enchanted the audience... She told me about tour plans for Germany in fall, I love the idea :-)
Mitch Kokai

02/01/2017 2:02 AM  

Thank you, Peter, for the update and translation!

Mitch Kokai

02/01/2017 6:24 AM  

Tift grants a great interview to Pop Matters.

Merritt will be hitting the road this winter and spring, albeit in an abbreviated fashion, touring behind the release of her latest—and possibly best—album, Stitch of the World. “Hopefully this will mean that my live shows are maybe a little rarer but higher in value,” she said, before adding, “It’s scary because you really have to get out there and fight for your place in the music industry these days and, jeez, I’m not going to be able to do that like I used.” ...


A former creative writing student at the University of North Carolina, Merritt has rightly so long been praised for her lyrical acumen. Hers are songs populated by palpable, relatable characters with a depth and resonance more in keeping with a literary tradition than that of your average singer-songwriter. “You hope and pray every single day that inspiration will hit you or that you will be listening when it does,” she said. “But I believe in the elbow grease of it all as much as anything. So I get up and write sort of in a free way as long as I can before looking back and revising things.”

Yet this approach can be traced to her own early influences and appreciation for the golden age of the singer-songwriter, a long-standing musical lineage and tradition of which she can confidently consider herself a member.

Indeed, there’s a timelessness about the music on Stitch of the World that, much like the rest of her catalog, places Merritt in the aforementioned longstanding tradition of singer-songwriters whose material manages to transcend the era in which it was created to remain relevant weeks, months and days later. This is a concerted effort on her part to write in a way that isn’t beholden to a specific moment or time not only in her own life, but within a broader pop cultural context.

“I’m really proud to be a part of the tradition of music,” Merritt admits, “but the world of pop culture is always very concerned with what is of the moment, what is now. For me, I have to tether those two questions. I’m never totally consumed with what is now, but I’m also very aware of what is now for me and where I want to go now. Which is I want to be part of a tradition, but I want to bring it to a new place. I don’t want to dress it up in whatever I think 2017 is supposed to be; it has to be more authentic than that. Looking backward for the sake of being retro is not substantial enough, you’ve got to kind of tether those two things together and bring the tradition into your world or into the moment in a way that feels real.”

Mitch Kokai

02/02/2017 11:10 AM  

Glide magazine gives the album eight out of 10 stars.

Her lived-in, honeyed singing is wholly hers – she sounds like no one else. Her new record, Stitch of the World, is a stunning display of Merritt’s natural ability, and her ability to tap into the raw, often challenging parts of being a human being.

Merritt created Stitch of the World while pregnant, and whether intentionally or not, there’s that unmistakable cusp of change, a mix of fear and hopefulness, threaded through each song. She writes about openness, inclusion, doing the right thing, staying true to herself, and putting love first, all messages that hold a particular importance in this strange time of unrest. The title track is an enchanting, haunting song with traditional folk roots about finding your place in the bigger picture and going with the flow. It’s one of the darkest, most compelling tunes on the album.

“My Boat” is a song about friendship and support, as is “Love Soldiers On”, and both are gauzy and warm. “Icarus” is as light as air, practically taking flight as its mythological subject suggests. But the most beautiful track finds Merritt collaborating with folk artist Sam Beam and is one of three songs she sings with him (Beam also produces). “Wait for Me” has one of those choruses that will stick with you no matter what. It’s intimate and fragile, a love song that feels fresh and new. Merritt’s vocals are breathy and light, but there’s an underlying sense that she could really belt it out if she wanted. The beauty lies in how well she controls it, offering little bursts with a hint of rasp, and then quickly retreating back to a much softer sound. It is positively hypnotic.

Mitch Kokai

02/09/2017 2:23 PM  

Undertheradarmag.com offers praise.

If every writer had a voice to match, it might be a different radio. With Stitch of the World, the eloquent Tift Merritt writes songs that play from the pages, her honey-textured voice like an ancient scroll unrolling and her mind's stories coming alive amidst burning folk-country coals, turning and flickering.

"Dusty Old Man" opens like a romping bouquet licking dew off of boots, and "Heartache is an Uphill Climb" scorches with piano pelts grabbing our strings. Merritt's rounded soulful soar broods intimacy with unforeseen immediacy. "Icarus" drops the glass, a piercing piano and pedal steel shard, with a warmly rasping Sam Beam shading Merritt's glow. Merritt wears the storm on her sleeve, just as much as she commands and possesses it, grounding us both wildly and tenderly to the respite of her song. In Stitch of the World, Merritt beams bedraggled and beautiful as ever, as if watering the roots she wrangled, proving roots that are uprooted, are straining as ever, for a new ground to land upon.

Peter Rusam

02/15/2017 12:51 AM  
In case you don't know it yet I want to point out this blog. Contributions to every single song: https://meetinmontauk.com/
Mitch Kokai

02/17/2017 8:40 AM  

I apologize to the current high bidder ($127.50 as I type), but you still have almost four days to bid on eBay for a white-label Stitch of the World test pressing.

Here's the link for those high rollers out there.

Mitch Kokai

02/17/2017 2:14 PM  

American Songwriter catches Tift's act at the Watkins Family Hour.

Mitch Kokai

02/25/2017 11:01 AM  

A New Zealand publication gives the album 4.5 of five stars. Note the alternate title for "Dusty Old Man."

Tift Merritt is, to put it mildly, a bit of a hidden gem. With a consistently excellent output, it's a puzzle as to why she manages to slide under the radar: a mystery, indeed, that the excellent Stitch of the World only deepens. With a voice that's both gritty and sweet, the music on Merritt's Sam Beam-produced album is as sweeping and wide as the Texas plains she often alludes to. It's intelligent and thoughtful, with a wonderfully lush country sound. There are plenty of pretty, acoustic-driven numbers, although the album does have its rollicking moments. Opener Dirty Old Man kicks along with muddy guitars and pedal steel, while Proclamation Blues echoes early, electric Dylan - you'd almost swear it's Mike Bloomfield jangling away in the background. And yet it may be the slower, gentler songs that make the album. Heartache is an Uphill Climb is gorgeous, exploding into life after a hushed, piano-driven intro. My Boat lilts along with its gentle acoustic guitar and mandolin backing, and the title track is powered by a lovely, haunting slide guitar. There's nary a dud track on the album. Stitch of the World is nothing less than a wonderful release from a very fine songwriter.

Mitch Kokai

03/17/2017 9:52 AM  

Rreverb.com offers kind words about the new album.

Tift Merritt  serves up a feast fit for a King with her latest offering “Stitch of the World”.

With an opening four song appetizer, a 3 song main course, and 3 sweet ballads topping things off, Tift leaves you more than thankful for what you’ve just received.

‘Dusty Old Man’ is a zesty entrée in which Tift’s witty assertion that her man ‘won’t back down, don’t make plans, he’s as mean as a snake’, pairs a rockabilly rhythm with Tusk-era Fleetwood Mac drum patterns and backing vocals to tasty effect.

The country- flavoured ‘Heartache is an Uphill Climb’, initially asks ‘How does the scar forgive the knife?’,  before repeatedly advising that it’s going to be ‘step by step, and take time, time, time’ before any healing occurs.

‘My Boat’ is a deceptively pleasing mandolin-bathed homage to friendship, while the final appetizer ‘Love Soldiers On’ is drizzled with 50’s-style guitar as it reiterates the album’s themes of loss, renewal, courage and hope.

The atmospheric opening to the title track is a bittersweet gift that dissolves into a melody which, mouth-wateringly succulent though it is, is surpassed by the following delicacy ‘Icarus’, a luscious heart-rending piano ballad served with Kate Bush styling’s that has you reaching for the repeat button.

Mitch Kokai

04/01/2017 1:07 PM  

A video review from Bernard Zuel.

Mitch Kokai

04/01/2017 1:15 PM  

Time Out New York interviews Tift.

You produced Stitch of the World with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam, who also performed on it. What did he bring to the record?
He’s a wonderful person, a wonderful musician and a wonderful source of encouragement, so I’m really in his debt. One of the main things that he gave me was his ear as a writer. To have his feedback on my songs and my writing was such a valuable source of confidence.

The song “Wait for Me” concludes the album on an optimistic note.
Every day on the ranch [in Marfa], I would make this three-and-a-half-mile walk, and I could see forever. You’re up on a high desert plain, and it’s just you and the wildlife, and it’s gorgeous. That’s definitely an example of the landscape influencing perspective. I think there’s something so hopeful in making cross-country trips where you are hoping that life is a linear thing and what is behind you is behind you, and what is ahead of you is good. 

Don Henley covered the title track of your 2002 debut, Bramble Rose, for his most recent album. What was that like? 
I had just played in [Raleigh] with Andrew Bird. I had stayed out late with my friends, and I was kind of hungover. I opened my email and I was like, “I think I’m seeing things.” [Laughs] I couldn’t believe that he was covering it, but then he covered it with Mick Jagger [and Miranda Lambert]. Those are the days you call your parents and go, “I know it’s been scary. But look, you believed in me, and you were right.”

Mitch Kokai

04/11/2017 2:18 AM  

Guitar Girl magazine interviews Tift.

Stitch of the World was released a couple of months ago under Yep Roc Records.  It’s your first studio album since Traveling Companion in 2013 and I understand you went through some life changes during the writing and recording of this album.  Can you share with us those experiences and the inspiration behind the album?

The raw material of my life is always fuel and sets the stage for what I am writing. At this point, that’s my job, that’s what I do. Inspiration comes from all different places — but an album is made up of so many different moments and hopefully covers a gamut of things to have some depth. Like a map of a landscape from a period of time. The past few years were very intense for me – turning 40, getting divorced and really finding myself off the map of where I thought my life was headed. There were a lot of tough moments and also happy ones and I am sure making sense of all of this was the engine for this record.

Do you feel those experiences had a major impact on the music for this new album?

Always. I mark my life by writing. I think it will take many, many years for me to have perspective on my marriage falling apart and maybe the most significant thing I found writing this record was that I knew I was trying to write about things I did not wholly have perspective on or distance from. That was scary. But also really rewarding to say I did it, and really perhaps more honest that the thin perspective we all pretend we have on life!

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