On the eve of Merritt's album debut in 2002, she won the hallmark competition at MerleFest: The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, named in honor of the songwriter and fiddler who died in the 1991 plane crash that claimed eight people from Reba McEntire's band. The contest was very much on Merritt's mind as she reeled off probing cuts from her new album Stitch of the World. Then she got political, introducing her new song "Icarus" as a commentary on dreaming versus hubris. The unfortunate flyer from ancient Greek mythology at least was dreaming, she argued – it's certain political figures in modern times who define hubris. Her days as alt-country's beloved ingénue well behind her, Merritt's ringing guitar and dusky vocals point toward her own suns.