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Tift Merritt’s sounding more like Patty Griffin than ever, and the choice of a Griffin tune to this singular mind-meld of classical piano (Simone Dinnerstein) and whatever it is Merritt does, seems to wink conspiratorially. Conspiracy aside, though, we could use more than one Patty Griffin these days, and the McCoy just stuck a few awkward down-home touches on her latest. No awkwardness here. Stark in instrumentation, smooth in sound, sinister around the edges where a harmonica or some cross-wire resonances cut in from the back of the guitar/piano/voice mix, the project forms a crucible for combined ideas.

And in such a crucible, odd wonderful creatures might emerge from the meltings. “Night” itself, positioned four-fifths away from the end (from dawn), spills out a story of eyeless birds and anthropomorphized not-day-times (“The night and I go quietly/ We go softly/ Screaming all the way”) a sensation stripped of enough detail (leaving enough feeling) to evoke terror, instead of the more earthly horror.

“Still Not Home,” reworked by Merritt from her last album, no longer clanks like a freight train starting up. It’s now just Jesus, Robert Johnson, and Tift Merritt. Jesus wants to be somebody, and he’ll have to leave Dad to do that. Robert Johnson doesn’t know if it’s day or night (an affliction one of his true sons, Jimi Hendrix, will pour into those words). Tift Merritt hasn’t finished trying all the anywheres of Earth, to find home. She still thinks she can find excitement, not doom, not drudgery, in that. Godspeed.

  • Album: Night
  • Artists: Simone Dinnerstein and Tift Merritt
  • Label: Sony Masterworks
  • Songs: (1) Only in Songs (2) Nights and Dreams (3) Don’t Explain (4) Dido’s Lament (5) I Shall Weep at Night (6) Wayfaring Stranger (7) Prelude in B Minor (8) Still Not Home (9) I Will Give My Love an Apple (10) Colors (11) The Cohen Variations (12) Night (13) Feel of the World (14) I Can See Clearly Now
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