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    Natalie Merchant’s New Album: A Voice Reclaimed

    Natalie Merchant is back with a brilliant new album, her first in nearly nine years. Released on Nonesuch, Keep Your Courage features nine original songs.
    As well as a thoughtful interpretation of “Hunting the Wren” by Irish musician Ian Lynch. The eclectic collection showcases significant musical passages, thoughtful lyrics, and fantastic vocal performances.
    The album opens with duets featuring Abena Koomson-Davis of the Resistance Revival Chorus. The upbeat “Big Girls” echoes a sisterly love that can withstand hardship.
    While “Come on, Aphrodite” is a call to the goddess of love for comfort in tough times. The rest of the album veers between acoustic folk, dreamy pop, and Celtic sounds.
    The songs “Sister Tilly,” “Wonder,” and “Carnival” all feature spry ’90s pop beats that work well. While the evocative, slow burn of “Guardian Angels” builds up layer-by-layer to a gorgeous, psychedelic folk quilt.
    Literature and history heavily influence merchants. She digs deep into myth and legend on this album. Merchant’s lyrics consistently convey a sense of loss and longing.
    Some of the album’s slower songs might feel like a departure from her previous work. However, the overall tone and sound align with her career as an artist. She worked with a diverse group of collaborators in her career.
    With this, Merchant proves she has no problem switching styles. The result is a compelling and deeply satisfying listen.

    A Voice Reclaimed

    For the most part, the album works as a showcase for her voice. It’s a powerful and resonant instrument that carries the emotional weight of every note she sings.

    Unlike many of her peers, who have scaled down their ambitions, Merchant still reaches for the big ideas and emotions on this record, turning her journey into something universal.

    Throughout the record, Merchant’s poetic gift shines through. She frequently cites the poetry of everyone from Walt Whitman to Joan Didion. Her lyrics are often lush with references to history and nature.

    While Tigerlily didn’t hit the heights of Merchant’s later records, it is still a solid, finely crafted set that shows off her songwriting talents.

    The album is an impressive return to form after a difficult period in her life that saw her undergo spinal surgery just four days before the lockdown began.

    Keep Your Courage finds Merchant on the top of her game, displaying heart, intelligence, and integrity wrapped in indelible hooks and gorgeous melodies.


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