HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER
The writing of the songs that became Heart Like a Levee started in a hotel room in Washington DC in January of 2015 during a powerful storm that darkened the East Coast. At that time I was feeling—more acutely than I had ever felt before—wrenched apart by my responsibilities to my family and to my music. Forgetting, momentarily, that for me, each exists only with the other. How could I forget?
Though maybe my lapse was reasonable: I had just quit my job, the most recent and last, in a series of dead-end gigs stretching back 20 years, with the vow that my children would understand their father as a man in love with his world and the inventor of his own days. They would be rare in that regard. And then—driven by monthly bills and pure fear— I left for another tour, carrying a load of guilt that I could just barely lift. But in that snowy hotel room I found the refrain that became my compass: I was a dreamer, babe, when I set out on the road; but did I say I could find my way home?
“I’ve always had a taste for traveling alone,” Tift Merritt sings in the title track of her fifth album. This time around, she got to prove it, “calling the shots myself and letting myself go wherever I needed to go” at a point in time when she was a free agent without label or manager. But the song does also conclude that “Everybody here is traveling alone,” a realization that places as much value on community as iconoclasm. And Merritt put together her “dream cast” of fellow travelers to play on Traveling Alone, which found its happy home at her new label, Yep Roc. The road less taken doesn’t preclude good company.