Scott Merritt is one of the great unsung singer-songwriters of Canada. Through a career that started in the late 70's, from his hometown of Brantford, Scott has recorded only six albums, but each one has been worth the wait and all are masterful works of genius. He's a bit like the Tom Scholtz of Canada, when it comes to getting everything just right before he will release it to the public. His 1990 album "Violet & Black" remains one of my favourite records of all time, and travels with me wherever I go. I never get tired of listening to it.
Most of the time, these days, Scott is known best as a producer and engineer, working out of his studio, The Cottage, in Guelph, Ontario. People like Fred Eaglesmith, Stephen Fearing, Suzie Vinnick, and Garnet Rogers are familiar faces through his door. However, slowly but surely, he writes a bunch of new tunes, and when the time is right we get a new album, and so now we have "Of." The cover is a bit like the old Zeppelin albums of the 70's, or Pink Floyd, in that there is no type on it at all. No "SCOTT MERRITT" in great big letters. Just a lovely photo of a sunlit window and table by a photographer named Alexander Harding. It's typical of Scott. He is an artist who very much follows the beat of his own drum, and his music is very unique and unlike anyone else at all. Although he is an excellent guitarist, known for his mastery of effects and such, on this new album he took an entirely different approach. There is no guitar on it at all, and the instrumentation is very spare. He plays a tenor ukelele through the entire album, supplemented by a reed organ and vibraphone. Jeff Bird adds standup bass and mandolin, and Andy Magoffin plays horns. It creates a very atmospheric sound, full of space, and draws attention to Scott's tender but powerful vocals and wonderful lyrics. Scott doesn't play the ukelele in the typical way at all, but instead fingerpicks it, and most of the time it sounds very much like a harp. Even with the change of instrumentation, however, his own style is immediately recognizable. Like I said, Scott Merritt sounds like no one else.
As always, with his records, the songs can be somewhat enigmatic. The standout tracks to me are the lovely "Everwill," "Repo," the epic "Willing Night" and the closer, "Solomon." "Indespensible" was written about Her Majesty's Royal Chapel To The Mohawks, which is a Protestant church built by the crown on the Six Nations Reserve."Of" is a lovely, soothing record, which needs several listens to really get into. If you are a Scott Merritt fan, it is also indespensible.
By Marty Murrary