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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Certified Gold by the RIAA. (4/02)


Just as Natalie Merchant donned a mythical persona for her last proper solo release, 1998's Ophelia, the buttery-voiced performer enjoys another stint as a quick-change artist on Motherland. From the trilling Middle Eastern flavor of opener "This House Is on Fire" to the evocative Latin classical guitar tones on "The Worst Thing," Merchant seems to enjoy pressing her steadfast, throaty vocals into new terrain as much as she does trying on dresses and high heels. While most of Motherland resides in the downtempo, ballad-heavy world that Ophelia did, most of the singer's diehard fans will appreciate her thoughtful phrasing and pastel soundscapes. There may not be fireworks, but the ex-10,000 Maniacs frontwoman knows her way around a sad song: "Golden Boy" excels as a wispy November poem, while she wiggles into torch-singer mode on "Put the Law on You." But the record's true standout is "Tell Yourself," an almost sprightly tune with sunny acoustics that resemble the Maniacs' "Don't Talk." Merchant may not be inherently comfortable in her own skin, but, like a salamander, she's excellent at transforming her surroundings without sacrificing her creative soul. --Kristy Martin

1. The House Is On Fire
2. Motherland
3. Saint Judas
4. Put The Law On You
5. Build A Levee
6. Golden Boy
7. The Ballad Of Henry Darger
8. The Worst Thing
9. Tell Yourself
10. Just Can't Last
11. Not In This Life
12. I'm Not Gonna Beg

Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 13, 2001)
  • Original Release Date: 2001
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra / Wea
  • ASIN: B00005R1Q5
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,353 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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It was after Natalie Merchant had completed her debut effort for Nonesuch Records—2010’s ambitious Leave Your Sleep, in which she set to original music other writers’ poetry, nursery rhymes, and lullabies—that she realized the words she really wanted to concentrate on were once again her own.

As composer and singer Merchant explains, “Leave Your Sleep was a ... Read more in Amazon's Natalie Merchant Store

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Customer Reviews

Motherland has reminded me why I'm such a fan of Natalie Merchant.
Aaron Blight
Natalie Merchant's new album "Motherland" is fantastic, and proves even more so that she has the most beautiful voice in folk music.
Tamara Kliss
Build A Levee- 2/5 A little too religious for me, and also the sound is just not too good on this song for me.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Blight on November 18, 2001
Format: Audio CD
The third solo album by Natalie Merchant, Motherland, is what a typical Natalie Merchant fan might hope to discover: a fine balance between Natalie's proven musical styles and enough experimentation to whet your whistle and make you wonder what else she has up her sleeve.
Motherland has reminded me why I'm such a fan of Natalie Merchant. On this album, Natalie's singular voice is at its best, sounding pristine and smooth on every song. Her songwriting is equally inviting: she has crafted twelve songs with moving, meaningful lyrics that are presented through compelling musical compositions. This is not bubble gum pop; it's an album with meat that will leave the serious listener satisfied.
As for the individual songs on Motherland, all have something to offer and are worth the listen. Each song contributes to the cumulative musical strength of this album. My personal favorites, however, are the melancholy title track; the soulful, haunting "Saint Judas"; the softly satirical "Golden Boy"; the beautifully simple "Henry Darger"; the reassuring and rhythmic "Just Can't Last"; the melodic and graceful "Not In This Life"; and the unique, African-influenced "This House Is On Fire".
In my opinion, Motherland reaffirms Natalie Merchant's place among the finest musicians today. The album is excellent, and I highly recommend it to you!
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Randall Caspersen on November 16, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Too often, Natalie Merchant is criticized for being too moody, too depressed and too pretentious. To many of us, she is too wonderful. Beyond that otherworldy voice, her music offers many gifts and MOTHERLAND advances that tradition as much as any fan or even casual music listener could hope.
"This House Is On Fire" and "The Worst Thing" suggest that Merchant has began to dip into the well of Arabic rhythms and Spanish-flavored classical guitar, respectively. "Saint Judas" and "Build A Levee" make good on her debut album's promise that she can sing the blues (see TIGERLILY's track: "San Andreas Fault") with conviction and passion. The album ending "I'm Not Gonna Beg" is both languid country and subversively gospel. Even her very-OPHELIAesque tracks "Henry Darger", "Golden Boy" and the timely, gorgeous title track are bolder than that album's beautiful, haunted chamber music. Perhaps producer T Bone Burnett is responsible for breathing a little space and adventure into Natalie's soundscape (both of the earlier solo studio albums were self-produced) and MOTHERLAND glows with his attention.
Too often, Merchant's radio hits have felt a bit compromised. OPHELIA's "Kind & Generous" was catchy and nice but lyrically slight. TIGERLILY's "Jealousy" always seemed like just a lark in the Merchant canon (she never performs it anymore) and even that album's biggest hit, "Carnival", works much better live where Merchant's whirling dervish antics distract from the band's often irritating percussion.
It is with great relief that two of MOTHERLAND's most commercial tracks are two of its best. "Just Can't Last", already an Adult Top 40 favorite, provides the melodic uplift of "Wonder" while plainly updating the helping hand sentiments of her 10,000 Maniacs' song, "Trouble Me".
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jacqueline on February 12, 2005
Format: Audio CD
This album is just beautiful, end to end, there is not a single track I skip, I understand that not all of this album is going to appeal to everybody but you should still give it a try.

Merchant's voice has aged beautifully and she hasn't been this blatently political since 1989's Blind Man's Zoo with her formmer band 10,000 Maniacs.

This album will probably not appeal and might even offend Republican Zealots, with it's lyrics frequently implying a failed America, especially on This House Is On Fire, Motherland and Saint Judas but to those with open minds ans open hearts this is a facinating listen.

Merchant's music is far more experimental here than it has ever been, particularly in her career as a solo artist. In 10,000 Maniacs there were certianly tinges of reggae, punk (especially on The Wishing Chair and Hope Chest) and folk but until now she has stuck to the formula of piano ballards and standard radio-friendly rock-pop, not that her previous work wasn't good, brilliant even it is just that Motherland is an entirely different creature to Ophelia and Tigerlily.

The opening track This House Is On Fire, written during the WTO Protests and the mess of the 2000 presidential elections has a haunting arabic/north african arrangement featuring heavily what I believe is a violin or similar string instrument and a almost trip-hop (Think Portishead's 1994 classic Dummy) beat underneath.

The second, title track Motherland is deceptively simple upon first listen both musically and lyrically, it initally seems uplifiting but is really more about America's failures than it's sucesses as exmpilified in the lines It's your happiness I want most of all/and for that I'd do anything at all, oh mercy me!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Slivinski on November 13, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Those who may have too easily--and incorrectly--dismissed Natalie Merchant as a lightweight sort of pop diva will have more trouble with the release of Natalie's latest CD. "Motherland" is darker, more heavy lyrically and more ominous than the more pop-laden "Tigerlily" or the mellow and somewhat brooding "Ophelia," which was an outstanding CD. But this one is even better. Natalie's voice has become just a little bit deeper and richer. The lyrics of most of the CD's tracks deal with anger or bitterness, whether because of the mistreatment of women, loss in love or making unwise choices. "Tell Yourself" may be the CD's most paradoxical track; over a rather pop-sounding instrumental track, Merchant's lyrics speak about the many lies perpetrated by society and the media on women and their roles. "Just Can't Last" may be the most uplifting, despite its mention of hurting and being weighed down. For, as Natalie tells us, "it can't last"--and we believe her. "Put the Law on You" is a standout for, if nothing else, David Ralicke's tenor sax. Mavis Staples adds dpeth and counterpoint to Natalie's vocals on two cuts: "Saint Judas," a great indictment of bigotry in the guise of religious zealotry, and "Build A Levee," a great song about self-protection. "This House is on Fire" showcases Natalie's new richness of voice at its best, while "Golden Boy" asks us to contemplate the latest male rage out of tinseltown and what made him that way.
This is a CD of great depth and power; with each listen I find myself becoming more and more engrossed in the nuances of Natalie Merchant's lyrics. If you are expecting Top 40 hits and jangly melodies, they aren't here.
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