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   Music articles index

Various Artists: Late Night Tales; Friendly Fires (Universal)

Various Artists: Late Night Tales; Friendly Fires (Universal)

The Late Night Tales series of invited-guest's mix-tapes succeeds or fails not just on the compilers' taste, but how they craft a running order of diverse tracks. Some smart invitees –... > Read more

Robert Wyatt: His Greatest Misses (Ryko/EMI)

Robert Wyatt: His Greatest Misses (Ryko/EMI)

The story of this lifelong Marxist, musician, essayist and British intellectual is perhaps too complex too go into here, but here is the short-hand. Drummer in the innovative jazz-rock outfit... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Angela's Low-fat Moist Cake which serves 12!

Angela's Low-fat Moist Cake which serves 12!

This is Angela's recipe under the very enticing (and somewhat healthy) title, and one which she says is a New Zealand adaption -- or is that "adaptation"? I've got into this discussion... > Read more

SUPERBREW: Journeys in the past

SUPERBREW: Journeys in the past

Any honest longtime observer of local jazz would say that right now it’s moribund, the patient has no discernible pulse. Sure some musicians would argue otherwise. But they would say that,... > Read more