Tift Merritt at Schubas

I’m still getting to know the new album by Tift Merritt, Another Country, but my lack of familiarity with the new songs didn’t detract at all from my enjoyment of the Merritt concert Friday (April 4) at Schubas. I loved her 2004 album Tambourine, and Friday’s show featured plenty of the older songs. If anything, the new songs sounded livelier with the live backing from her band, with more of that Tambourine country-rock sound. Merritt deftly switched between guitar and piano, but of course her beautiful voice was the main attraction. (She’s beautiful, too, which doesn’t hurt – but how painful was it for me to watch her without a decent camera, thinking what lovely photos I could have taken.)

During the encore, the crowd hushed down for a really lovely moment when Merritt sang “Good Hearted Man” by herself on piano, transforming the soulful studio track, which features horns and backup singers, into a pensive and pretty ballad. Throughout the night, Merritt was charming whenever she spoke with the crowd, scoffing good-naturedly when some fans loudly whooped at the slightest guitar chord. She seems down to earth, someone who could become a huge star but who really enjoys playing before a small crowd at a place like Schubas. She’s spent some time lately in France, and she closed with a song in French, “Mille Tendresses,” leaving us all with our spirits lifted a little bit.

The opening band, the Everybodyfields, played a strong opening set of country rock with male and female harmonies, a perfect fit for the main set by Merritt.

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