Peace and Quiet

On her third record, Portland singer-songwriter Sorcha Cribben-Merrill gets intimate.

Sorcha Cribben-Merrill
By Brian Kevin

One compliment you can pay the 12 tracks on Quiet, Sorcha Cribben-Merrill’s new solo release, is to say they all sound like maybe you’ve heard them before. That warm familiarity might come from lyrical repetition — her choruses are often echoed, over and over, like an incantation — or from the fact that Cribben-Merrill’s style is a recognizable pastiche of folk, blues, and acoustic pop balladeering (imagine Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam had a baby with Sarah McLachlan and then Tracy Chapman raised it).

Quiet is a lovely record for a long, meditative drive. A Portland-scene stalwart brought up in Brooksville and well-traveled on the New England folk circuit, Cribben-Merrill veers away from the Americana licks of her first two records (2006’s Walk It Once and 2010’s Laughing and Lamenting) and into jazzier, more subdued territory. Her guitar is moody, fuzzed out here and there with reverb. Her singing is hushed, plaintive, sometimes amelodic. And yet, Quiet’s best tracks are also its hookiest, more sing-along–friendly tunes like “Carving” and “Great Big Bubble” (a ukulele diddy with nice harmonies).

Listen to “Great Big Bubble,” recorded live at Down East:

With her various duo and trio projects, Cribben-Merrill skews soulful, funky, and twangy, so it’s refreshing to hear a record devoted to her tranquil side — it only underscores the crazy range of one of Maine’s most versatile troubadours. And there’s nothing quiet about that.

Find Quiet on iTunes or at and catch Cribben-Merrill on Nov. 17 at Blue in Portland (9 p.m.; 650 Congress St.; 207-774-4111).