Leave Your Sleep Natalie Merchant
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- 1Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience05:10
- 3Calico Pie02:41
- 4Bleezer's Ice-Cream05:17
- 5It Makes a Change03:31
- 6The King of China's Daughter02:39
- 7The Dancing Bear05:37
- 8The Man in the Wilderness03:44
- 9maggie and milly and molly and may04:08
- 10If No One Ever Marries Me02:21
- 11The Sleepy Giant03:19
- 12The Peppery Man05:05
- 13The Blind Men and the Elephant05:30
- 14Adventures of Isabel03:24
- 15The Walloping Window Blind04:17
- 17The Janitor's Boy03:52
- 19The Land of Nod04:06
- 20Vain and Careless04:44
- 21Crying, My Little One02:27
- 22Sweet and a Lullaby03:05
- 23I Saw a Ship A-Sailing02:13
- 24Autumn Lullaby03:22
- 25Spring and Fall: To a Young Child03:06
- 26Indian Names05:50
Info for Leave Your Sleep
"This album captures so many magical moments, the best times I've ever had as a musician," declares singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant of Leave Your Sleep, her ambitious, two-disc Nonesuch debut. Merchant, celebrated solo artist and the one-time voice of 10,000 Maniacs, took on what could have been a daunting task; she's adapted 19th and 20th century British and American poetry--well-known and obscure work, anonymous rhymes, children's lullabies, all of it timeless material full of direct emotion--and fashioned new songs from these words. Among the poets she chose were Robert Graves, Charles Manley Hopkins, Edward Lear, Ogden Nash, and Robert Louis Stevenson. The project, six years in the making, has clearly had a liberating effect on Merchant. Never has she sounded so free-spirited, so full of musical adventure, whether backed by small jazzy combos or elegant chamber ensembles. The tracks she's created range from exotic ("The King of China's Daughter") to earthy ("Peppery Man"), soothing ("I Saw A Ship A-Sailing") to swinging ("The Janitor's Boy"), mischievous ("It Makes A Change") to moving ("Spring and Fall"). The string arrangements are particularly stirring, recalling Joshua Rifkin's now-classic work on Judy Collins' Wildflowers.
There's plenty of child-like wonder, counterbalanced with grown-up sophistication. Says Merchant, "It was an exciting, new approach for me to work with rhythm and rhyme schemes created by other writers. The poems inspired vastly different musical settings with their themes that ranged from humorous and absurd to tragic, romantic, and deeply spiritual. Over the course of three years I wrote 40 of these poem-songs and 30 were eventually recorded.
Merchant co-produced Leave Your Sleep with Venezuelan musician-composer Andres Levin, a frequent collaborator of David Byrne and Arto Lindsay, and one of the creators of the eclectic Red Hot charity series. Over the course of a year's worth of exhilarating, musically shape-shifting sessions, they drew upon no less than 130 musicians from the varied worlds of, among other things, Cajun, country, jazz, chamber music, R&B, Celtic, and reggae. The revitalized Merchant explains, "I called on old friends and approached many new musicians I only knew through admiring their work... The sessions were recorded in live ensemble workshop settings that captured pure and authentic sounds played with incredibly fresh and spontaneous energy."
Leave Your Sleep is an inspired return for Merchant, her first studio album in seven years--an effort long awaited by her considerable fan base. It also marks her 25th year as a uniquely successful major-label artist, one whose work has consistently enjoyed equal measures of commercial and critical success. Though she has regularly lent her talents over the preceding years to the many non-profit causes she supports, Merchant actively returned to the concert stage, previewing material from Leave Your Sleep on a series of dates in the UK and continental Europe.
"Throughout her career, Natalie Merchant has thrived on exceeding only her own expectations. Her last album, 2003’s The House Carpenter’s Daughter, rooted in American and British Isles folk traditions, was a stepping stone toward Leave Your Sleep. Where the former's songs were made of originals and covers, the latter marries them in sung poetry and original music from various traditions.
Co-produced by Merchant and Andres Levin, the double-disc Leave Your Sleep contains 26 new songs recorded live in the studio. She used the poems, anonymous nursery rhymes, and lullabies of 19th and 20th century British and American writers as source material and set them to original music. Among the authors included are Ogden Nash, e.e. cummings, Robert Louis Stevenson, Christina Rossetti, Edward Lear, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mervyn Peake, Eleanor Farjeon, Nathalia Crane, and Robert Graves. Poetry is but one part of the story, however. Merchant composed music from across the genre spectrum: New Orleans swing on “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” (Jack Prelutsky) and Crane’s “The Janitor’s Boy” are performed by Merchant fronting the Wynton Marsalis Orchestra; the Yiddish folk music of “Dancing Bear” (Albert Bigelow Paine) pairs her with the Klezmatics; Peake’s “It Makes a Change” is performed by Medeski, Martin & Wood with a horn section; “If No One Ever Marries Me” (Laurence Alan-Tameda) is Appalachian backporch music with hammered dulcimer, banjo, upright bass, and guitar. “The Blind Men and the Elephant” (John Godfrey Saxe) is cabaret jazz played by Hazmat Modine with the Fairfield Four and the Ditty Bops on backing vocals. Stevenson’s “Land of Nod” is a gorgeous orchestral piece with a Celtic flavor. Speaking of Celtic, Rosetti’s “Crying, My Little One" is performed by Lunasa backing Merchant. Through it all, of course, is that voice, Merchant’s throaty trademark. It expresses itself emotionally, honestly, and precisely, without resorting to dramatic tropes to get meaning across. The album closes first with Hopkins' contemplative, melancholy “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child,” with a symphony orchestrated by Merchant and Sean O’Loughlin, and finally with Lydia Huntley Sigourney's haunting “Indian Names” by a string quartet accompanied by Joseph Fire Crow on Native American flutes, drums, rattles, and narrative, with chanting by Jennifer Kreisberg. It sends the set off much where it begins, illustrating poetry's ability to provide its own musical instruction, comfort, poignancy, and sense of wonder to the experience of everyday living. Merchant succeeds in spades; the extensive research and discipline pay off handsomely. Leave Your Sleep is easily her most ambitious work, yet because of that welcoming voice, it provides familiarity enough to gather listeners inside this world of sound." (Thom Jurek, AMG)
After rising to fame at the helm of the popular folk-rock band 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant enjoyed even greater success as a solo artist during the mid-'90s. Her literate, socially conscious songs established her among the preeminent women in pop music, while her solo debut -- 1995's Tigerlily -- helped pave the way for a number of female performers in a pre-Lilith Fair market. She continued releasing albums well into the 2000s, often examining specific genres or subjects, although Tigerlily remained her biggest-selling record.
Born October 26, 1963, in Jamestown, NY, Merchant joined 10,000 Maniacs at the age of 17 and became the band's driving artistic force. After a pair of successful independent releases, they signed to Elektra in 1985 and briefly became one of the most popular acts in alternative rock, shooting into the Top 40 with 1987's In My Tribe and charting even higher with their follow-up effort, Blind Man's Zoo. Merchant's desire to launch a solo career increased alongside the band's growing reputation, however, and by the time the group sat down to record 1992's Our Time in Eden, she gave her bandmates two years' notice. Following the release of MTV Unplugged in 1994, she publicly announced she was leaving the group's ranks.
Merchant made her solo debut with 1995's Tigerlily, a self-produced album that debuted at number 13 and scored a Top Ten single with "Carnival." Two additional singles, "Wonder" and "Jealousy," also cracked the Top 40, prompting Tigerlily to sell over five million copies in the U.S. alone. It was followed in 1998 by Ophelia, another platinum-selling effort that was supported by Merchant's inclusion in the second Lilith Fair tour. Live in Concert, recorded at New York's Neil Simon Theatre, appeared a year later. A prominent social activist, Merchant also drew notice by campaigning in the name of such hot-button issues as animal rights, domestic violence, and homelessness.
Merchant launched a folk tour in 2000, with members of progressive folk band the Horse Flies joining her on the road. She then returned to her solo career with Motherland. Two years later, Merchant left Elektra's roster and formed her own independent label, Myth America, in order to issue House Carpenter's Daughter, a collection of traditional and contemporary folk music inspired by the 2000 tour. A long period of silence followed, during which a pair of greatest-hits releases -- the 10,000 Maniacs collection Campfire Songs and Merchant's own Retrospective: 1995-2005 -- kept fans relatively sated. As the decade drew to a close, though, Merchant signed with Nonesuch Records and began making plans for a new album, which eventually arrived in the form of 2010's Leave Your Sleep. (All Music)
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