July 23, 2010

Derelict Kites

Is there anything better than liking everything by an artist, only to realize that you have only heard a small fraction of their work? After some research and downloading you realize that you are suddenly waste deep in several albums of work. Hundreds of new songs. As you start to listen, you admonish yourself for taking so long to be obsessive about your artist.

The idea that all of this music has been hidden from you for so many years makes you ill. So many emotions left hanging on barren cloths lines could have been strung to these songs and flown on windy days like derelict kites.

After you’re done kicking yourself, you rejoice, because the songs are here now and waiting to be explored.

I have always loved every song I have ever heard by Natalie Merchant. Never a 10,000 Maniacs fan, but I had their unplugged CD since the nineties and enjoyed it every time I listened to it. I can say the same thing about Tigerlily, but that is it. My knowledge of her music ends there. Two CDs!

A few days ago, I came across her latest work- Leave Your Sleep:
Quite aside from being a double record, it by all accounts really did take six years to make, and features over 100 musicians, with the lyrics all poems about childhood culled from the breadth of the 19th and 20th century British and American canon. It is, inevitably, a very mature record, and fans expecting Maniacs-style folk rock or even Tigerlily-size choruses had best think again. But it’s a long way from boring: you can feel the time spent on it, with near enough every track soaked in some distinct, lush musical trapping, be it bluegrass, reggae, warm woodwind, sprightly folk, southern-fried blues and, in the case of Bleezer’s Ice-Cream, 1950s-style advertising jingle
Read full review.

After an initial listen in which I quickly became lost in a maze of musical stories, I did some research and realized she had an extensive catalog since Tigerlily.

1995: Tigerlily
1998: Ophelia
2001: Motherland
2003: The House Carpenter's Daughter
2010: Leave Your Sleep

I immediately downloaded all four albums and have been absolutely pleased ever since. (Never realized she had so much work the 10,000 Maniacs! I will let these songs soak in a few months before I venture into that work.)

Her work is literally poetry put to music. For me, it is perfect writing music. I will be running to catch up with a tangent and realize that I can relax and let her music carry me. I do not believe in a traditional sort of god, but if she does exists and someday will sing to me, I imagine her voice to sound like Merchants.

I always felt that being a musician was a vocation and that it was something
I would do throughout my life and that I wanted to do it with dignity.

Her latest Leave Your Sleep is as eclectic as any of Tom Waits’ work. I would love to hear a duet by that couple. Anyway, just wanted to share my newly found love. If you are like me and have only had a taste of her work, I would suggest you get your fill. If you are a long time fan, please share your favorites and tell me where to start with her 10,000 Maniacs work.

Here is one of my favorites from Leave Your Sleep:

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