Natalie Merchant: New Song & Video!

As we announced earlier this month, Natalie Merchant will release her self-titled album on May 6th. The album is her sixth solo effort and her first collection of entirely original songs in 13 years. You can watch the video for the album’s first single, “Giving Up Everything,” below. Merchant’s voice and songwriting are as heart-stopping and gut-wrenching as ever.

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Natalie Merchant: New Album Announcement!

Natalie Merchant will release her self-titled, sixth solo album on May 6th. The aptly titled Natalie Merchant is her first collection of all original songs in thirteen years. After playing around with classic folk songs and poetic lullabies for her previous releases, Natalie has returned to the intimate, singer-songwriter style of her earlier work for the new album. No audio or video from the new album has been released yet, but you can see the tracklist below and read a new interview with Natalie at Green Door.

Natalie Merchant Tracklist:

1. Ladybird
2. Maggie Said
3. Texas
4. Go Down Moses
5. Seven Deadly Sins
6. Giving Up Everything
7. Black Sheep
8. It’s A-Coming
9. Lulu (intro)
10.Lulu
11.The End

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Natalie Merchant Official Site

Various Artists: Listen to Me: A Tribute to Buddy Holly

Listen to Me: A Tribute to Buddy Holly was released so shortly after the Rave On Buddy Holly that it got lost in the shuffle of my review folder last year. Even months later, Listen to Me still suffers by comparison to the other Buddy Holly tribute. This is at least in part due to what seems to be a bit of a musical identity crisis – some truly great folk and rockabilly moments are lost betwixt bland pop covers and random classic rock. It’s good enough to bother reviewing, but had the potential to be so much better.

The opening cover of “Not Fade Away” by Stevie Nicks can’t hold a candle to Florence & The Machine’s wailing, quaking rendition on Rave On Buddy Holly, but it is nonetheless endearingly peppy and handclappy.

Imelda May‘s brassed up, punk meets rockabilly take on “Lookin’ for Someone to Love” and Linda Rhondstadt’s classic 1976 cover of “That’ll Be The Day” are highlights.

The stand out track is a beautiful piano and vioin rendering of “Learning the Game” by Natalie Merchant.

Fall Out Boy singer, Patrick Stump, gives a surprisingly gentle and melodic version of “Everyday,” but I was disappointed with Zooey Deschanel‘s “It’s So Easy.” I usually love anything she sings, but this particular arrangement weighs her voice down.

The humorous spoken word “Raining in My Heart” by Monty Python’s Eric Idle is the tribute’s bizarre finale. Otherwise, this is a very safe, adult contemporary collection of Buddy Holly covers. Which isn’t a bad thing, just nothing to get excited about.

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Tribute Official Site

Natalie Merchant: Retrospective 1990-2005

The deluxe limited edition of Natalie Merchant’s Retrospective 1990-2005 is a two-disc collection of gems from her solo albums along with a selection of B-sides, collaborations, and other rarities. It’s a very impressive and extensive body of work considering the relatively small span of time it represents. The two CDs are packaged in small booklet of artful photographs of Merchant with insightful blurbs about each individual track.

From Natalie’s first solo album, Tigerlilly, we have the infectious “Wonder”, “Carnival” (featuring guest vocals by Katell Keineg), “Jealousy”, the lovely earthquake ode “San Andreas Fault”, and an alternate full band version of the dusty love song “Cowboy Romance” that was an outtake from The House Carpenter’s Daughter sessions.

Taken from her second solo release, Ophelia, are the appreciative “Kind & Generous”, “Break Your Heart” (with Chris Botti on trumpet), the encouraging “Life is Sweet”, the suicidal “The Living”, and a moody outtake called “She Devil”. Merchant also recorded a new piano version of “Thick As Thieves” for Retrospective.

Selections from the third solo effort, Motherland, are its title track, “Build a Levee” (with vocals by legendary Mavis Staples), and “Not in This Life”. And gleaned from The House Carpenter’s Daughter are “Owensboro” and “Sally Ann”, but unfortunately “Which Side Are You On” was left out. I was also disappointed that the beautifully heartbreaking ballad “Beloved Wife” didn’t make the cut, but I own all of Natalie’s solo CDs so I suppose it doesn’t matter much.

The second disc is mostly composed of Merchant’s contributions to soundtracks, benefit albums, and recordings with other artists. Among them are the traditional tunes “Children Go Where I Send Thee” and The Chieftains collaboration “Lowlands Of Holland”, the title track from the “One Fine Day” soundtrack, the Michael Stipe duet “Photograph”, a musical reworking of Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” with Susan McKeown, a cover of the Gershin classic “But Not For Me” with Chris Botti, “I Know How To Do It” with Dr. John and Booker T. & The MGs, and a total of three collaborations with Billy Bragg.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can listen to “She Devil” online here

Natalie Merchant’s Official Site
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Natalie Merchant: The House Carpenter’s Daughter

Natalie Merchant’s The House Carpenter’s Daughter is a collection of traditional and contemporary folk music. The rustic 2003 release, the first on her own Myth America Records label, was a drastic departure from the alterna-pop of her 10,000 Maniacs days and the sweet, smooth melodies of her first three solo albums. The idea to record folk songs grew from the traditional tunes Natalie and her band would play when warming up for live performances.

The melancholy “Sally Ann” and “Crazy Man Michael” float along on Natalie’s unusual lilt as well as the wailing strings and heartbeat percussion of her backing band.

I had the extraordinary opportunity to witness Natalie’s hypnotizing live performance of the chilling union anthem “Which Side Are You On?” at Mountain Stage when she was promoting the Motherland album. More than any of her original tunes, this folk cover shows off the impressive range of her unique voice.

“Diver Boy” resonates with a deep bass rhythm, pounding percussion, and Natalie’s bottomless voice. “Soldier, Soldier” is another highlight with grinding blues guitar and even bluesier male/female vocals.

“Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow” and “Down On Penny’s Farm” kick the tempo up with bluegrass strings and foot tappin’, square dance beats. “Owensboro” is another that I love, with a simple but heartfelt melody.

The closing track of the traditional “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” isn’t vastly different from any of the thousands of covers we’ve heard before, but it is as soulful and pretty as any other version.

I think what impressed me most about this album, beyond the unquestionable beauty of its songs, is that Natalie Merchant choose to record and release folk music that she truly loves on her own label rather than continue down what was probably a more lucrative pop career on a major label. There aren’t many modern acts who display such artistic integrity, and even fewer who can match that integrity with this kind of phenomenal talent.

Natalie Merchant’s Official Site

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