Natalie Merchant goes back to the future with a solid effort in her latest self titled release.
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
Good. Not great...
Natalie Merchant is back with a release that may be far stronger as a compositional feat of strength as opposed to something you might hear on the radio. Some people like that...Merchant has done some eclectic releases and collaborations over the last several years that include lullabies and some orchestral work. As her artistic development has grown it would seem the original fans may have slowly moved on and the musical question pops, "Is this how we get them back?"
The voice is never better, the compositions are solid while a consistent energy is lacking. An intimate and personal release that feels compelled to take the lyrical trip down which ever trendy soci-political path may strike her fancy. I tend not to pay close attention or care to take politically fueled advice from artists any more than I would let my mechanic perform a potential liver transplant. An initial two word reaction might be self indulgent and pretentious. O.K. that is three but you feel me.
A predictable release from Natalie Merchant...Different would have been nice. Plunking the one string banjo may be a shot in the arm for sales but the end result is a release that wears thin on about the fourth play. Natalie Merchant fans will take to this in droves, casual listeners not so much.