Natalie Merchant: Leave Your Sleep (Nonesuch)

Natalie Merchant: The Walloping Window Blind
Natalie Merchant: Leave Your Sleep (Nonesuch)

This fascinating, self-funded double CD (available in a single disc "Selections" version) has preoccupied the former 10,000 Maniacs frontwoman for the past five years -- but if literate and literary music is your thing you'll conclude it was worth her efforts.

After the birth of her daughter, Merchant -- as musical parents are wont to do -- decided to record an album of lullabies. But the project progressively changed to what we now have: a collection of songs about the fears and fancies of childhood as conveyed by a couple of dozen poets from the somewhat obscure (Jack Prelutsky, Rachel Field) to the household names (Edward Lear, Ogden Nash, Christina Rossetti).

By gently adapting the poems into songs then bringing in a stellar cast for each piece -- Wynton Marsalis' group,  Medeski Martin and Wood, the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York, a klezmer group -- she has created a broadly conceptual album where Cajun music rubs shoulders with Irish folk, jazz with bluegrass, deep reggae with chamber music.

It is beautifully presented as a book with photographs of the poets and the poems reproduced, and explores the scary side of childhood (loneliness, the dark, the boogie-man etc) as well as the joys of the child's imagination.

Robert Graves and David Byrne, ee cummings and Marisa Monte, Robert Louis Stevenson and the Memphis Boys all in the same conceptual space -- and making perfectly good sense.

An ambitious and remarkably successful project, as much as a double album of music to immerse yourself in as a good book of fairytales.

There is an interview with Natalie Merchant about this project here.

Share It

Your Comments

Angela - Apr 25, 2010

That is fun! and novel.
And Jack Prelutsky is not an obscure poet especially if you are American.

post a comment

More from this section

Tuung: And Then We Saw Land (Full Time Hobby)

Tuung: And Then We Saw Land (Full Time Hobby)

Somewhat improbably this English acoustic folk-rock outfit recently appeared on stage with the desert blues-rock band Tinariwen -- which really shouldn't have worked at all, yet reports were highly... > Read more

Harper Simon: Harper Simon (Liberator)

Harper Simon: Harper Simon (Liberator)

Even on a blindfold test you'd probably only need the first few bars of the second song here -- after the traditional All to God -- to spot this is either Paul Simon, or someone very close to him.... > Read more

New Elsewhere

NOOKY STOTT INTERVIEWED (2015): Bringing on the Rebel beat

NOOKY STOTT INTERVIEWED (2015): Bringing on the Rebel beat

The guy who had the best seat in the house to watch the rise of the Auckland rock band Larry's Rebels in the Sixties was Nooky Stott. He was the group's drummer and a child of Fifties... > Read more

DON McGLASHAN INTERVIEWED (2015): This time it's personal

DON McGLASHAN INTERVIEWED (2015): This time it's personal

In late January I was approached to write a brief biography for Don McGlashan to accompany the release of his new album Lucky Stars album. At the time I wasn't available but was sent an advance... > Read more