Southern singer-songwriter Tift Merritt has garnered comparisons to Maria McKee, Caitlin Cary, and Lucinda Williams over the course of her decade-plus in the business, and like them, Merritt has had to grapple with how to make a pretty voice and a set of solid country-rock influences into something listeners haven’t heard a thousand times before. On her last album, 2008’s Another Country, Merritt dodged the issue and embraced traditionalism, recording a set of tastefully arranged, vividly soulful ballads and mid-tempo rockers. With the follow-up, See You On The Moon, though, Merritt engages alt-rock super-producer Tucker Martine to bring a little edge, and the collaboration bears fruit from the album’s first song, “Mixtape,” a jumpy little number with a handclap beat, swooping strings, and a muted jump-rope-chant chorus.
See You On The Moon still occasionally veers toward the kind of generic lite-roots music that dominates rom-com soundtracks and commercials for long-distance service, but more often, Merritt tries to do a little more with what she has, whether she’s singing a sunny song of healing in “Engine To Turn” or marveling at human persistence in the punchy “Six More Days Of Rain.” “Mixtape”’s soft urgency carries over into songs like “Never Talk About It,” where Merritt repeats the title over and over in a haze, as though it were a nagging notion she wanted to exorcise. And Merritt maintains that mood throughout: anxious to discard what’s weighing her down, yet unwilling to completely let go.