Very grown up
Natalie Merchant delves even further into tradition with her latest release, Leave Your Sleep, a two-CD collection of songs that use high-caliber poetry (much of it written for children) as lyrics (a single-CD selection is also available). Merchant’s signature style—a delightful mix of pop vocals with traditional folk phrasing—remains, and she continues to put orchestral arrangements to good use. In this case, the symphonic music supports the songs rather than overwhelming them, and is replaced by some delightful fiddle and banjo work on songs with a more Americana feel, like “Calico Pie” (lyrics from the Edward Lear poem). Merchant’s got a real gift for arrangement, and it shows in this set. Also included is a lovely little book that includes the poems as originally published (the poems are tweaked to make them work as lyrics), as well as short autobiographical essays written by Merchant. In spite of the poems’ origin as children’s lyrics, with Merchant’s music, these are very grown-up (if safe to play when the baby is awake). It’s a tour de force of the delightful blending of language and music, and Merchant shows that she’s got the chops to make it work.