She's Gone (Away from) Country

But Tift Merritt's latest release, Tambourine, is up for Best Country Album

Tambourinehas only nominal nods toward country in a couple of tracks, and Merritt repeats throughout our conversation that she has a "great rock and roll band" while expounding knowledgeably about Van Morrison, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield. But she won't entertain the irony that her least country effort is nominated in the Best Country Album category or engage in any discussion about the absurdities that abound in today's genre classifications and marketing niches.

"To me, someone like Ray Charles was such a visionary," says Merritt. "He saw that gospel and blues were coming from the same musical well, had similar chord structures and stylistic traits. Then he just turns the world upside down by making a country record that's as great as anything else he ever did. I think he could do that because he understood that it's all just very earthy music coming from a place of similar inspiration." She adds, "I try to make sure my songs will stand up whether it's just a stripped-down acoustic singer-songwriter presentation, a basic four-piece band or a larger ensemble that includes horns or keys."

So what does a Grammy nominee serve 20 dinner guests on New Year's Eve?

Merritt: "I try to make sure my songs will stand up 
whether it's just a stripped-down acoustic 
singer-songwriter presentation, a basic four-piece 
band or a larger ensemble that includes horns or 
keys."
Merritt: "I try to make sure my songs will stand up whether it's just a stripped-down acoustic singer-songwriter presentation, a basic four-piece band or a larger ensemble that includes horns or keys."

"Shrimp and grits. It's a North Carolina thing."

Now that sounds country.

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