Writing songs for her sixth studio album, Tift Merritt dove into the uncertainty she faced in life.
The 10 soulful and lilting tunes that appear on "Stitch of the World" capture that time, when Merritt says she found adult life would never "sew up neatly."
"It is a scary thing, but I find it is more honest than pretending you have perspective on everything," Merritt said.
After turning 40 and going through a divorce, Merritt left the life of a touring musician for the solitude of South Texas and a cabin in California. The lyrics she produced tell of rising from heartbreak, caring for others and loving despite hardship.
Appearing at the Red Dragon Listening Room on Wednesday, Feb. 22, Merritt will perform much of the album as well as cuts from her celebrated early albums, which began with 2002's "Bramble Rose" and 2004's "Tambourine."
She will perform as a duo with pedal steel guitarist Eric Haywood, who contributed to the new album, which was recorded in a blazing four days last year with a team of experienced studio musicians. Sam Beam, of Iron and Wine, produced the effort.
"It feels good and loose, not uptight," Merritt said of the album.
Although the songs were created in a time of uncertainty, they remain hopeful. She was pregnant with her daughter, Jean, when recording it.
Her first single, "Heartache is an Uphill Climb," begins quietly.
"How does the scar forgive the knife?" she begins. "How does the pride forget the fight?"
The song swells to a triumphant end. "Uphill, steep steep steep," she sings. "I got a lot in front of me."
Merritt ventures into new territory, a sort of magical realism with "Icarus." The mythological boy who flew too close to the sun and crashed is always the moral of the story, Merritt said, a warning against hubris. But taking a chance should be celebrated, she said.
"I also think that people who dream or dare or take a leap, that is something beautiful, too," she said on the phone from North Carolina, where she moved after her daughter was born.
The narrator finds Icarus in a field, broken with "glue in his hair" and takes care of him.
"There's a wing down in each of us," Merritt sings. "Faster than the speed of sound inside. Everything flies."
Merritt just returned with daughter Jean from a European tour. The 9-month-old has learned to wave, saying hello and goodbye to all her new friends.
Life is much less uncertain now than it was when recording "Stitch," Merritt said.
"The fact that I have this beautiful baby," she said by phone while Jean cheerfully ate Cheerios and avocado in the background, "it seems like I am where I really should be."
Tift Merritt with Sera Cahoone
Where: Red Dragon Listening Room, 2401 Florida Blvd., Baton Rouge
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22