Tift Merritt's sophomore release, the masterful Tambourine, was just nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Album, which is ironic: Although Merritt has been a staple of North Carolina's alt-country scene for years, the disc is a big departure from the rustic strum of her 2002 debut, Bramble Rose. Her voice still retains hints of the grit-etched grandeur of Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris, but Tambourine dips into blues, rock and roll, gospel and the sultry Memphis soul of the Stax and Hi eras. Merritt's current tour of small clubs was booked before her nomination, so tonight's show will surely be one of your last chances to see the songwriter in as intimate a setting as the Larimer Lounge. She may be squaring off in the Grammy ring against goliaths like Tim McGraw, Gretchen Wilson and Keith Urban -- not to mention her own hero, Loretta Lynn -- but for fans of true, tasteful roots music, Tift Merritt has already won.
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