Leave Your Sleep

Natalie Merchant

Natalie Merchant is so good at what she does that to not like her would simply be contrary. That is especially true when it comes to this double album of songs written as “part of a long conversation” between the singer and her 6-year-old child, a song cycle that celebrates poetry while re-creating the bond between a mother and daughter. You’d have to be a misanthrope to approach this album with a bad attitude. The two discs come with a beautiful little booklet providing background on each of the poets whose lyrics have been adapted to music here, poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Ogden Nash, Robert Graves, Edward Lear, e.e. cummings and others. The poems are rendered in a wide variety of musical settings—reggae, blues, Celtic, rock—all of them sung with a mother’s true feelings. A project like this could have been cloying, absolutely intolerable to all but new parents. Merchant knows what she’s about, however, and like most everything she’s done, this project was deftly crafted. I would love to have had this music when my daughters were little, but I’m equally glad to have it at this more advanced age to remind me of what I knew before I ever went to school. This is a very special album.