Monday, July 27, 2009

Natalie Live and Local

Did you catch Natalie Merchant at the Spiegeltent last night? On Saturday night, she decided to perform new material from her forthcoming album, and with some scurrying, a piano and an appreciative audience gathered Sunday night. Intimate, casual and an utter delight.

She is a singer-songwriter in her bones and has been writing songs continually since her last release about five years ago. With her lovely little girl off to kindergarten last fall, she turned her full attention (almost full) to creating her new album. As she said last night, many of her collaborators have been dead over 100 years. With a cultural anthropologist's eye, she has unearthed children's poetry (some familiar and some wholely new to us) and set it to music. Collaboration with the living rounds out the project. It's a musically diverse recording with a New Orleans jazz band and a full orchestra appearing.

But, last night was just Natalie, a piano, a little red notebook of music she compiled in the wee hours the night before, and a pen. She sang, played, joked, and made notes in the margins as she worked through the material. It was as much a song-writer's workshop as a performance, and aren't we lucky to have been there.

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