Feb 262016
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

tift-merritt

Tift Merritt came out of Raleigh, North Carolina, back in 2002. Her debut, Bramble Rose, was well respected, finding itself on multiple best-of lists, but it was her second album, Tambourine, which was truly respected, getting Album of the Year nominations from the Grammys (country category) and the Americana Music Association. She’s toured hard, opening early in her career for her friend Ryan Adams and for Elvis Costello. She’s continued to release critically acclaimed albums, both on her own and in joint projects such as Night, her 2013 collaboration with classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein. Her work has led to a great deal of respect from people in the industry, but not a corresponding amount of fame. Even so, fans in the know recognize her as a leader within the field, and her talent shines through no matter where she shows up. Emmylou Harris said that Merritt stands out “like a diamond in a coal patch.” Emmylou is right. Tift Merritt may not be played on your local radio station very often, but she deserves a place in your listening library.

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Feb 252014
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

At the time, did you consider yourself to be a Baroque popper?

No… to put myself in a category, okay, pop, yeah, definitely pop. But ‘Brrr-roke?’ Come to think of it, I was brrrroke my whole life! Yeah, a brrrrrrrroke popper! That’s exactly what I am! — Emitt Rhodes, in a 2010 interview

If you want the prototypical example of a record company killing the goose that laid the golden egg, look no further than the story of Emitt Rhodes. An incredibly talented teen who’d had a couple local hits with his band the Merry-Go-Round, Rhodes released a self-titled album in 1970 that featured him on all vocals and instruments, and which earned favorable comparisons to Paul McCartney’s similar one-man-band home-recorded solo debut released earlier that same year. But after that, the suits stepped in, and it was all downhill.
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