It's gotta be the biscuits, because good things keep coming out of North Carolina. The Tarheel state is chock-full of Southern gems, and musically, it's long been an incubator for such rock landscapers as Superchunk, Polvo, Archers of Loaf, and the little labels that could, Merge and Mr. Lady Records. Time to take notice of another blip on the radar, and her name is Tift Merritt. Previously linked to local Chapel Hill stalwarts the Carbines and Two Dollar Pistols, Tift's got a helluva scratchy-sweet voice and some serious gumption -- her strain of alt-country sounds more Motown than what's going down in Nashville.
Her second solo release, Tambourine, is noteworthy for its diverse offerings. Though the sound of Tambourine sometimes suffers from jam session casualties, the midtempo ballads make it all worthwhile. "Good Hearted Man" is a faithful invocation of the spirit of Dusty Springfield, and the dynamic "Write My Ticket" just gels with melodious synergy. -- Kelly Shindler