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on May 17, 2014
I first saw Natalie Merchant in concert in 1992 (Brekeley ca.) as part of 10,000 maniacs, and bought all their albums the next day. I thought she hit her peak in 1995-2001 with her solo albums, Tigerlily, Ophelia, and Motherland. Each of those albums left me wanting more of that type of music. So I was a bit dissapointed when she switched genres and released folk albums in 2003 & 2010. Now the reason I say I was a "bit" dissapointed is that those albums were actually pretty good. I'm not a big fan of folk, but Merchant did it right, and I listen regularly to those albums as well.

Nevertheless, I have yearned for something new from Merchant of the genre that made me fall in love with her. What I got was something better. I don't know how to even classify this album. Sure it's got some of that rock/pop sound of her earlier days, but it's has overtones of the folk she has done for the past decade. What a beautiful blend. Leave it to Merchant to remind us that music is an art, and as an artist she has come into her own with this album. It's brilliant. I loved it from the first run through and it just gets better with each listen.

Granted, you won't see this album on the typical charts that the media puts out to tell you what you should buy, but for people who love music that is well written and sung from the soul, this is a must have. I only hope that the people who listened to Merchant at the begining of her solo career, but gave up on her when she went folk, will give this album an honest chance (more than just a single play through).

The only down side of this album is that, like an addictive drug, I just want more. Please keep writing and recording Natalie, and thank you for the album I have waited 13 years for.
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on May 6, 2014
I've loved the music of Natalie Merchant since my first 10,000 Maniacs cassette back in the 80's, remember cassettes? There's always been an undefinable quality in her voice that I've been drawn to. No one else sounds like Natalie. Each of her albums are favorites of mine for different reasons. I treasure them all. With this new album Natalie has only cemented her status as one of America's very finest singer-songwriters. I guess the thing I love most about Natalie's music is the sincerity that is present in her voice in each word she sings. There's no pretense, no vocal showing-off. She allows the songs to be heard and the words, melodies and phrasing are allowed to exist equally. There's a maturity in this collection both in her voice and in the words and melodies that she sings that I appreciate and am grateful for. I've listened to this album only twice (since receiving it early this morning), but I already feel as though these songs have become familiar and treasured musical friends. I'm sure I will wear this CD out. If you've been a fan of Natalie's past music, I guarantee you will not be disappointed in this new work. If you are somehow just discovering her - buy this album. It's a great introduction to her music. You'll then have all of her other music to discover - lucky you!
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on May 6, 2014
This album is an anthem of Natalie's experiences throughout the Bush era, Hurricane Katrina, a beautiful ballad about Louise Brooks, war, getting away from a bad relationship, words of wisdom from an older woman, and so much more. The music is spot on, the melodies are fresh. You can definitely hear reminiscences of Tigerlily and Ophelia throughout the album. This is her best album yet, in my opinion. Ladybird and Black Sheep are two of my favorites. I wholeheartedly recommend this album to a casual Natalie fan, new and old. An awesome welcomed return, it is nice to see Natalie writing again.
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This is a fantastic album, I think. I was bowled over by it when I first heard it and it has just got better on repeated hearing.

Although I've been aware of Natalie Merchant in a vague sort of way for a long time, this is the first album of hers that I have heard properly. It won't be the last: it features extraordinary songwriting, excellent singing and very good arrangements and production. You can get a sense of the album's tone from the artwork, featuring Merchant in a bleak, dirty concrete cell in varying degrees of thoughtfulness or despair. The music and lyrics aren't unremittingly miserable, but it's not one to get you in the mood for a fun night out, that's for sure. However, it has it redemptive moments and the music and performances are so compelling that it never becomes depressing.

I find it hard to give a real flavour of this album. Natalie Merchant is very much her own woman, but I get echoes of greats like Tracy Chapman, Patty Griffin and others. The music is varied, tuneful, often mournful and always very musically rewarding. Her lyrics are remarkable – allusive and suggestive rather than direct much of the time, and extraordinarily evocative of the daily struggle and the human condition as a result. This is fine, intelligent songwriting by someone who has honed her craft over many, many years and found her true individual voice.

I would suggest listening to some samples here (available on the mp3 page). If you like the sound of them, don't hesitate. This is a very fine piece of work with genuine depth and which is a pleasure to listen to. This will certainly be one of my stand-out albums of this year and it will last for a very long time, I think. Very, very warmly recommended.
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on September 25, 2014
Natalie merchant at her soul searching best. Keeps in line with her past efforts (putting beautiful poems to music in a way only she can) it tends to borrow from the sounds and sentiment of some of the best traditional poetry of the past & present while adding a whole new element. Intelligent & beautifully performed, this album showcases Natalie's own lyrics this time. But, they pour out of the speaker with such ponderous grace that you might feel that you are reading a part of our national history instead of the life, loves & musings of a gifted vocalist/singer/songwriter. If you love Natalie's vocals or gorgeous poetry set to music (think Paul Simon) then this really is a must have. And for those of you who tire easily of the new pre-fab computer driven tripe that passes for music these days you need to treat yourself to someone who not only knows the ins and outs of making real music, but she's at the top of the list of artists who writers/performs her own work as well as pours little bits of herself out in between the lines of her songs. This is a definite must have. The woman is in peak form & at the top of her game. I look forward to many more albums like this. I'd also recommend "Leave Your Sleep" (the two disc version) while not her lyrics (as stated before they are traditional American folklore/poetry set to music) the performance almost makes you think the words were written with her in mind.
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on November 8, 2014
Wow. This album is a privilege to listen to. Such a diverse compilation of sounds with the unifying thread of Natalie's rich and haunting voice. Serious topics tackled with depth but I didn't feel lectured to or dragged down....I felt simultaneously hopeful and hopeless listening to her lyrics. Her voice and lyrics are nothing if not moving, though with a beautiful subtlety that does not resort to the overly dramatic. Music is at it's best to me when I sense a communion with the singer's and my emotions/soul because of the melody/lyrics, and she certainly did that for me on this album. I think her long-time fans will love it and hope some newer fans craving more meaningful music try it out.
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on May 17, 2014
This work was gift from Miss Merchant for fans and admirer of literary work. She never compromise her artistic integrity. The songs and the melody are of variety which shows her wide range of her artistic scope. "Giving up Everything" redirect my thoughts as I visited Tibet and explored Buddhism last year. "Ladybird" with such attention seeking lyrics-"you know the sweetest wine is a witches brew,pours like honey down then burns the hole in you". I love the subtlety of "Texas" but with a powerful disturbing lyrics which reminds of me one of our former president ("hive is a buzzing in a hollow tree and I don't care if I kill a little honeybee"). I love the recounting of one's personal sorrow, sadness and struggle in "Maggie Said". "Go Down Moses" reminds us the devastation of Katrina. "Seven Deadly Sins" was cleverly written about a wage war and its consequences. Miss Merchant showed us again her variety of musical genre in " Black Sheep and "Its A Coming". Lastly "Lulu was about a 1920 silent film star Louise Brooks. Over all, I am just delighted that Natalie had release a new album. Her work transcends in my personal and professional life.
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VINE VOICEon June 3, 2014
Natalie Merchant has let herself go grey. Literally. Good for her.

Natalie's music, well, not tons has changed. Depending where you are on that fence, that could be a great thing or a not so great thing.

Merchant has such a distinctive voice and with the release of her eponymous album, it seems things are all too familiar with our little malcontent.

With 13 or so years between new material, Merchant breaks little new ground, and she seemingly picks up where she left off. That is not a necessarily bad thing, it just is.

While 'Natalie Merchant' is a pared down production (by Merchant herself), at times songs can seem quite full. Pared down doesn't necessarily means sparse.

If you can separate the George W. Bush not-so-hidden references from "Texas", the song has a nice cadence. It's not that I'm dissing or supporting Bush, but since these songs have been written over the last decade, some of them might have lost their timeliness. Ditto with "Go Down Moses" and the inference to Katrina.

While the music might be subtle, her lyrics and vocals rarely are. Merchant has always used a 2x4 to beat socio-political issues over her listener's heads. Now and again it is a good thing, but continually, it becomes tiresome, so any more, I have to listen to Merchant in limited doses. It's not that I even disagree with her, but I already have one mother.

I'm liking "It's a-Coming". It took a few listens, but I am beginning to like "Giving Up Everything". It's slow and plodding, but it works, especially with the string build-up. "Black Sheep", at least has a sense of new ground - and oddly, the clarinet really works on this piece. It helps make it just different enough.

Producing her first effort, Merchant certainly learned enough from Paul Fox ('Our Time in Eden') and her solo producers to cherry pick some of the best techniques. She makes that work for her.

While I like the album, I don't love it. Natalie Merchant - the album and the artist - will not convert anyone who was not already listening to her music.
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on January 14, 2015
I have been a Natalie Merchant fan my whole life. I have enjoyed her dark albums but now I have to throw the towel in on this one. Natalie in the 13 years since this album you had a child, you got married and divorced etc...Where is the beautiful songs about your daughter or the the beautiful song about your marriage (you did one for sister Rose)? You write a beautiful song about George Bush's greed? Why? Ladybird is another example. You focus so much on the bad in a relationship and you haven't shown us the GOOD. Most importantly you haven't shown us YOU. How about an album with songs about the birth of your child. The happiness when you got married. How about a song about the first time you got up on the stage as a Maniac and twirled. You wrote a song about Hurricane Katrina when you watched it from a tv in Spain? How about just give us something personal and some personal happiness. I understand you have a lot of opinions about things and you want them in your songs but I think your fans would love to hear an entire album about your experiences and life. The production is great on this album. I think she risks sound adult contemporary cliche on a few tracks. I think Natalie rehashed some sounds which is not entirely a bad thing. I just think what suffers here is the content of the lyric. All the songs sound fabulous but once you learn the meanings and the backgrounds and how she formed the lyric I think it seems like a very adult version of BLIND MANS ZOO. I'm here to tell you BMZ is very dated 80s sing for a cause music.
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on May 21, 2014
I first heard Natalie Merchant in 10,000 Maniacs when they played MTV Unplugged. I was a kid then and disappointed when the band broke up. However she more than made up for it with "Tigerlily". That album was spectacular with "Carnival" and "River" as my favorite tracks. Then came "Ophelia" which I also loved and then "Motherland". Maybe I'm imagining it but it seemed to me Natalie Merchant's voice changed on that record. It sounded like she was singing with something in her mouth. Although the music and lyrics on "Motherland" are great I just did not like the singing very much. Then she seemed to disappear from pop music (although I did buy the awesome retrospective album she put out in 2005). By chance I ran across an interview in which she was promoting her new album. I assumed it was more folk music but decided to listen to some samples just in case and I was so glad I did. I listened to "Natalie Merchant" in one sitting after purchasing it and felt like I was taken back to the Natalie Merchant of "Tigerlily" and "Ophelia". The songwriting is as strong as ever and she sings amazingly well. Now, I wonder if she still twirls on stage when she performs...
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