Tift Merritt with Loomer and the Kensington hillbillies at the Horseshoe, October 12. Tickets: $10. Attendance: 75. Rating: NN
it was already 25 minutes after Tift Merritt's scheduled midnight set time when two bearded members of her band carefully hoisted a Wurlitzer electric piano onstage and slowly began uncoiling patch cords. The handful of folks who'd come to see local yokels the Kensington Hillbillies or Loomer and initially thought about sticking around to see Nashville's idea of an alt-country starlet were already out the door before Merritt could say "Check one-two," leaving a fidgety 40 looking at their watches.
In what seemed to be an attempt to make up for lost time, Merritt began rushing through the songs from her Bramble Rose (Lost Highway/Universal) debut, struggling to spit out the words at the faster tempos.
Each tune was followed by an unusually long lull during which Merritt turned her back on the few remaining stragglers and made small talk with her bandmates. It was quiet enough to hear drafts being drawn at the bar for last call.
Having the backing of a full group -- including two keyboardists -- didn't really do Merritt any favours. In fact, performing in a duo set-up during NXNE last June better demonstrated her songwriting smarts and spellbinding voice than what amounted to a half-assed Sheryl Crow tribute.