After a day of threatening storms, the sun made its appearance just long enough to welcome Tift Merritt to the stage with its last rays (following Robert Francis and the band Dawes) for WFPK's Waterfront Wednesday concert. Dressed for the humidity in a white blouse and hot pants, Tift and her band energized a large crowd, including several clusters of folks lounging on the decks of their boats nearby.
Tift and her band moved worked through most of the tracks from her fine new album, See You on the Moon, although she did work in some older favorites like "Stray Paper" and "Broken" from previous releases. The sound levels for a big, outdoor show don't necessarily show off the nuances of the music or make the most of Tift's voice (I was standing pretty close to the stage, maybe not the best spot), but even with the intermittent buzz and distortion, the strength of the songs came through. Her husband and tour manager is also her long-time collaborator and drummer, Zeke Hutchins; lead guitarist (including pedal steel) Eric Heywood and bassist Jay Brown round out her band.
Whether she's strumming the acoustic on “All the Reasons We Don't Have to Fight,” rocking out on the electric guitar, or playing the keys on the beautiful meditation, “Feel of the World,” Tift seems right at home. “Mixtape” has just a touch of 70s funk, though considerably down-tempo from the recorded version, and her solo encore of “Good-Hearted Man” was very strong and soulful, bringing to mind classic Carole King. Tift closed with a slow send-off on a sultry night – the lovely, “Bramble Rose,” featuring Heywood's pedal steel.
Tift and bassist Jay Brown
Eric Heywood on lead guitar
Drummer Zeke Hutchins
Tift Merritt on keys