Even though it took 13 years for Natalie Merchant to release an album of all-new original compositions, this self-titled collection is well-worth the wait. It’s everything any fan should want it be — as lovely and generous as the artist herself. And it’s brought to life by her ever-distinctive, ever-haunting voice.
Merchant’s voice — in both the literal and figurative senses — is truly unlike any other. Her tone and timbre lend themselves so willingly and suitably to the concerns and sincerity expressed in songs like “Ladybird,” “Texas,” “Seven Deadly Sins,” and “Giving Up Everything.” As with most globally minded poets, Merchant both walks and blurs the line between the personal and the political, with individual tribulations masquerading as universal themes and archetypal worldly woes distilled into a single life’s unfolding.
The patchwork of stories Merchant tells here are woven with such delicate threads that it would be hard to imagine anyone else but her serving as the record’s producer. Luckily, Merchant recognized that and applied her own keenly insightful sensibility. For longtime listeners, Natalie Merchant feels slightly more kindred to 10,000 Maniacs’ Blind Man’s Zoo than it does her Tigerlily soloset. Either way, it feels real and true.
This review originally appeared in Elmore.