Taking in themes that variously range from childbirth to divorce, while featuring trademark balladry, Tift Merritt’s sixth studio album Stitch of the World is also a musically punchy affair. It lays its cards on the table from out the outset, counting in Dusty Old Man which comes with a clanking, loose-limbed bluesy chug that, driven by drummer Jay Bellerose, Marc Ribot on guitar and Eric Heywood on pedal steel, suggests a train rolling across the prairies. Likewise, a slightly rockier Proclamation Bones surges on fierce guitar riffs. Even the piano-based ballad Heartache Is An Uphill Climb comes with a muscular arrangement (not to mention the striking line “How does the scar forgive the knife?”) while the traditional folk-styled intricacy of the title track finds room for a sonic heft in its final instrumental stretch.
With Eric Heywood’s pedal steel adding to the mix, such upfront numbers are offset by more subdued tracks. Cases in point are the gently undulating country yearning of the optimistic Love Soldiers On, the lovely vocal soaring, piano accompanied Icarus, and the Emmylou-like acoustic My Boat. The latter being a rework of the Raymond Carver poem, its line about how “no one will be denied on my boat”, echoing the title track in its welcome call for inclusion in these Trumpian times.
The album shifts shape somewhat for the final three numbers. All of which are collaborations with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam who provides harmonies. The pedal steel colours the keening dust country duet Something Came Over Me while Eastern Light provides a reflective mid-tempo strummed guitar jog. Finally, with its haunting percussion and pedal steel backing, the ‘do right by each other’ themed Wait For Me closes on a gradual swell. A definite case of suture perfect.
Stitch of the World is out now on Yep Roc Records