Tift Merritt, "Another Country" (Fantasy)
Tift Merritt's third album, "Another Country," makes it clear why she attracts such adoration from Americana fans: Her sugar-cane voice seduces with a sweet tone and a delicate texture that melts into heated phrases and sparkles when sprinkled on upbeat fare.
But it also shows growth: Her writing especially carries more confidence, using fewer words and catchier arrangements to make her point faster and clearer than in the past.
The romantic yearning in "Another Country" may have been inspired by writing the album while living alone in Paris. She returned to America to switch record labels and hook up with George Drakoulias, who produced her Grammy-nominated album "Tambourine."
"Something to Me" — the album's best cut — has a smart, sardonic quality reminiscent of Jackson Browne. The title song is a sparsely arranged piano tune that recalls '70s singer-songwriters more than contemporary pop or alt-country. So does "Morning Is My Destination," which owns the soulful tenderness of Norah Jones.
Though still inconsistent, Merritt moves from a promising performer to an artist with a surer sense of her voice and writing style on "Another Country." Maybe this North Carolina native had to leave the country to get in touch with her Southern soul.
CHECK THIS OUT: "Keep You Happy" has the bubbly folk melodicism and contemporary electronic rhythm of Feist — a new and compelling direction for Merritt.