When: Fri., Oct. 5, 8 p.m. 2012
Tift Merritt sings about all sorts of rootlessness on her superb new album, Traveling Alone (Yep Roc). Working again with producer Tucker Martine, Merritt has more of the ethereal twang of Emmylou Harris than ever before, but the band on the album—guitarist Marc Ribot, drummer John Convertino, bassist Jay Brown, and pedal-steel master Eric Heywood—has enough gritty heft to keep her grounded. Her songs deal mostly with leaving, whether that means setting out in search of something ("Traveling Alone") or watching a relationship that's run its course ("Drifted Apart," where Andrew Bird makes a cameo that evokes the sweet cry of Roy Orbison). But though Merritt sings about drifting, her generosity of spirit—the kind that allows her to fully inhabit every fleeting moment—prevents her from sounding merely adrift. She's never sounded so comfortable in her skin, and it comes through in every note. —Peter Margasak The Pines open.