Traveling Alone

[Yep Roc]

Although Tift Merritt has always shown a knack for vivid, poignant songs, her albums have occasionally ducked nuance in favor of emphasizing her robust voice. That changes on Merritt’s latest, a collection that draws much of its power from the quieter moments. She embraces the dusty romance of a solitary life on the road in the title track, sighs through curtains of steel guitar on “Feeling of Beauty” and all but bites her lower lip as her voice drops to a throaty murmur on the sensual “Sweet Spot.” It’s Merritt’s most collaborative effort, with contributions from guitarist Marc Ribot, Calexico drummer John Convertino, journeyman steel guitarist Eric Heywood and Andrew Bird, who sounds startlingly like Roy Orbison when he sings on the chorus of “Drifted Apart.” It’s an imposing lineup of top-notch players, and with some of her strongest songs and a wider versatility than she’s previously shown, Merritt demonstrates that she’s very much at home among them. –Eric R. Danton

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