NATAlie Mer­CHANT

UNCUT - - Archive - STEPHEN DEUSNER

The Natalie Mer­chant Col­lec­tion NoNeSUCH 8/10 Re­think­ing Ma­niac’s solo cat­a­logue A photo in the book­let from Natalie Mer­chant’s 2010 al­bum Leave Your Sleep, newly boxed in this 10Cd solo-ca­reer-span­ning set, shows the singer-song­writer in a li­brary, bal­anc­ing a dozen books on her head with a sly smile. Typ­i­cally we imag­ine the for­mer 10,000 Ma­ni­acs front­woman as the of­fi­cious li­brar­ian, scold­ing us with an in­sis­tent fin­ger over her lips. But The Natalie Mer­chant Col­lec­tion por­trays her more as the mis­chievous reader, de­fy­ing au­thor­i­tar­ian shushes to make mu­sic that is both se­ri­ous and play­ful, grounded in his­tory yet mak­ing room for whimsy. Es­pe­cially on her later al­bums, she emerges as a sub­tle vo­cal­ist and an imag­i­na­tive sto­ry­teller who ap­proaches big ideas about gen­der, class, race, so­cial jus­tice through char­ac­ter and metaphor. Tigerlily, her best-sell­ing 1995 de­but, re­mains stiffly se­ri­ous, but Mer­chant’s finest work may be her least known – namely, her inventive in­ter­pre­ta­tions of old and new folk tunes on 2003’s The House Car­pen­ter’s Daugh­ter. ex­tras: 7/10. In ad­di­tion to a 100-page book, the set in­cludes two discs of pre­vi­ously un­re­leased ma­te­rial. But­ter­fly acts as a new al­bum, pick­ing up where 2014’s Natalie Mer­chant left off, while Rar­i­ties: 1998-2017 is more hit-and-miss but does in­clude a lovely cover of The Kinks’ “The Vil­lage Green Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety”.

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