Natalie Merchant – Butterfly

A couple of weeks ago I finally had the opportunity to see Natalie Merchant in concert again at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, WA. It had been about 16 years since I last saw her in Philadelphia on the Motherland tour. All those years ago in Philadelphia – a concert emblazoned in my memory. Natalie had just released her 3rd solo album, her set list was tight, and her vocals were powerful. Even then, she refused to rely heavily on her hit heavy back catalogue with 10,000 Maniacs. Lost in the moment, lost in the music – it was an amazing show. Flash forward 16 years or so and I found myself surrounded by people of all ages anticipating Ms. Merchant’s arrival to the stage. The open air filled with her unique voice, songs, and strings. Fiery and a bit more wise, she played for over 3 hours, again eschewing most of her hits with 10,000 Maniacs in favor of her lustrous solo career. Older, wiser, leaning more heavily on string embellishments – different, yet familiar. Natalie Merchant is like no other.

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Natalie Merchant – Natalie Merchant

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Natalie Merchant straddles multiple genres, never comfortably fitting in any scene. With the 10,000 Maniacs she veered from post-punk / folk to jangle pop. With her solo works she found even wider acceptance with her radio ready, alternative pop sound. Personally, seeing Natalie Merchant in concert in 2001 for the Motherland tour was a highlight among the hundreds of shows I’ve been fortunate to catch. She owned the stage and made her audience feel the depth of the words she was singing so passionately. Motherland was her last record of original material for over a decade – 2003’s The House Carpenter’s Daughter was a covers album, and 2010’s Leave Your Sleep was an album of lullabies dedicated to her daughter. Finally, we have a new album of original material – 13 years after the last album of original material (and that one happens to be my personal favorite solo record from Ms. Merchant). So, how’s the new record stack up? Read on…

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