Tonight, while cooking dinner, I put on a record I recently purchased. It is an album I’ve heard before. In fact, it dawned on me that it was probably around this time 13 years ago that I first purchased this album from the Tower Records on Broad Street in Philadelphia. That store no longer exists.
Tift Merritt’s Bramble Rose marks my move from the city I grew up in, Philadelphia, to the city I’ve come to love in Durham, North Carolina. I was staying at a friend’s house in Cary, NC in 2012 and came across a review of Bramble Rose in a local magazine. After having dinner with some friends, I stopped by Tower and bought the record. Another friend sent me a portable CD player so at night I fell asleep on a mattress moved into the dining area to the words and voice of Tift Merritt.
There was a lag from when my wife moved to NC and when I moved down. We had cleaned our two-bedroom apartment so I shut down the bedrooms and slept in the dining area nook. I had my cd player, a couple books, and a bottle of brandy. It was a very lonely three weeks and Merritt’s songs pulled me through.
Moving is tough, especially when the place you’re moving from seems to be engrained in your DNA. I’ve been a Philly guy all my life. It seems to be my identifying feature.
Ms. Merritt’s recent release of Bramble Rose brought me back to the power that this album holds over me. I’ve seen her in concert multiple times including a memorable evening in 2007 when she played with the NC Symphony as well as her collaboration with pianist Simone Dinnerstein. Her songs, for me, evoke a yearning for home. Not for the nostalgic sense of belonging, but more for a place where you fit in, and can find a space to breathe. Her third album, Another Country, takes this feeling to another level. In these songs, the expatriate Merritt yearns for home while expanding her view of the world from abroad. It’s the paradox in her songs that I find most comforting.
There’s that scene in High Fidelity, the movie, where the main character is asked how he arranged his records – autobiographical he says. Bramble Rose is the beginning of a new chapter. A bittersweet beginning to an adventure, that in hindsight, I can say has faired me well. North Carolina has become home, even though there are those days I long for the streets of Philadelphia, it’s Tift Merritt’s debut album Bramble Rose that bridges the two.