Natalie Merchant took a long break from recording since her 2003 title, “The House Carpenter’s Daughter ” in order to raise her own daughter. She just recently released a collection of poetry for children put to song entitled “Leave Your Sleep“. It’s a wonderful collection of prose from British and American poets clearly inspiring the artist to pen and record a very remarkable set of songs to match.
This month she brought the supporting tour to the Fox Theater in Oakland. The show was a series of sweet, poignant revelations from this artist as she shared family anecdotes and her love of poetry with the enthusiastic audience. She has a few slides for each song, showing a photo of the poet, and sometimes some artwork from the published work along with a story, a bit of the poet’s history and why she chose it. For anyone who purchased the double CD with it’s detailed booklet, this might have been expected and Natalie did not disappoint.
On record, I found it took several spins to begin to appreciate the all acoustic set with it’s varying traditional styles, played at mostly slow tempos. Performed live the music and imaginative arrangements came alive. The first set was all from the new recording, after which Natalie returned for a set of standards from her back catalog, including several tracks from her days with the 10,000 Maniacs back to their seminal release “In My Tribe“. Only complaint was the omission of anything from her 1993 release of traditional folk tunes, a few of which would have complimented the set perfectly. Nonetheless, a lovely evening.