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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 August 20, 2015
Natalie Merchant has one of the most evocative voices in Music today, Pop or otherwise. And I do really like this album of songs. Her writing and composition is always artful and considered. My only wish is that she find some joy and energy back in her life so she can express it musically. I do miss the energy of her voice and songs from the Maniacs days and Tigerlily. I always feel inspired by her songs and singing, but never uplifted any more. I do miss that. But that said, I still will listen to this many, many times and buy her new offerings as soon as they available!
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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 23, 2014
From the moment I found this album was coming, I had it on pre-order. It's now been on nearly constant repeat for me: at home, in the car, doing chores, and it did not disappoint.

For long-time fans of Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs, much of the themes of the music will be familiar: politics, underrepresented classes, moments in history that stand out. And some of the music and lyrics will call to mind older, favorite songs.

Where things differ here is in Merchant herself: older, more realistic, more open to confessing her feelings. The stellar "Giving Up Everything" describes her struggle between the trappings of fame and success and her own personal ethics. "Texas" is a reflection on the Bush era, and pulls no punches. And "Lulu" is a poignant tribute to Louise Brooks.

At times soulful and at others regretful, this self-titled work is a reflection of an artist with a long career who's struggled with many of the trappings of that career as well as a feeling of helplessness at viewing the world's ills.

This is a must-have for Merchant fans, and hopefully, will win over some new ones as well.
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on May 18, 2014
In many ways, it's like Natalie Merchant never took a seven year absence. In her new album, she still produces intelligent lyrics with lush instrumentation coupled with her elegant voice that just seems to get better with time. Her new album feels like the natural successor to 2001's "Motherland" despite the long gulf of years between the two albums.

The self-titled album's main theme shares much in common with her old song "Life Is Sweet." Many of the songs point to the hardships of life and the importance of enjoying what little happiness we can find and ignoring the bitterness. As things stand now, our hardships seem evident and increasing, and there is nothing that will alleviate it anytime soon. "It's A-Coming" promises change but only after much suffering and upheaval.

Among my favorites are the glorious "Go Down Moses" and the bold "Giving Up Everything." This album is very dense, layers upon layers, and it will not likely win you over at first listen, but it is a very rewarding experience for repeat listeners. It will at least lend you some comfort and, perhaps, a little hope.
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on February 14, 2015
Maybe not her best but still Natalie Merchant and still better than 90% of the rest of what's out there trying to pretend they can write and sing good music these days. If you liked her classic albums you won't be disappointed here. It may not be great, but it's still Natalie Merchant and she still sounds very very good.
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