Archive for the ‘Natalie Merchant’ Category


Sarah had this album on cassette, so I recently upgraded it to CD for her.  There are some good songs on here, but the end kind of degenerates into unpleasantness.  Looking at the track listing of the rest of the Very Special Christmas releases I can;t imagine ever getting (or even listening to) another one.

STING-“I Saw Three Ships”
Sting is back.  Compared to the previous song, this is a delightfully spare version of this song.  And it’s quite nice (and short).

I’ve recently realized how much I dislike Corgan’s voice, but I do like his arranging.  This song is quite pretty and his voice is kind of submerged a bit so that’s good, too.

NATALIE MERCHANT-“Children Go Where I Send Thee”
O good Lord.  Sarah and I both like Natalie, but jeez this song is so repetitive and so freaking long.  One verse would have been fine.  But five? Hold crap.  I do like the “one for the little bitty baby” line, though.

Oh boy is this terrible.  A horrible update to a horrible song.  The original is kind of funny, but this is just excessive greed.  At least it mentions a ’98 benz so it is so dated that no one plays it anymore.

NO DOUBT-“Oi to the World”
Gotta say that I love this song.  It’s funny and fun and I would totally put this on a Christmas playlist.  This is back when I used to like Gwen Steafani.

SHERYL CROW-“Blue Christmas”
I don’t like this song and I’m mixed on Sheryl Crow, but this version works pretty well somehow.

I only know Blues Traveler from that one song with the long harmonica solo (I hate that harmonica sound).  But I love this song.  It actually reminds me a ton of Tenacious D (can t you just hear Jack Black singing this?)  It’s fun and really catchy.  I wonder if I need to listen to other Blues Traveler songs.

ENYA-“Oíche Chiún (Silent Night)”
This song is very pretty and I have the single for it.

HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH-“The Christmas Song”
Darius Rucker does have a good voice, but what the hell is going on in this cheesy phoned-in version?

This is a nice (if not over the top–but is any version not over the top?).  But for heaven’s sake why is it 6 minutes long?

This is pretty much everything I hate in one Christmas song.  Cheesy beats, rambling verses, whiny choruses.

JONNY LANG-“Santa Claus Is Back in Town”
This is pretty close to everything else I hate in one Christmas song.  A blues song that feels like it goes on for 6 minutes.  Good grief.

This live version sounds better than the studio version I have elsewhere, but it’s still way too slow and mumbly and way way too long.

STEVE WINWOOD-“Christmas Is Now Drawing Near at Hand”
No one knows this “traditional” song, I’m sure.  It’s a slow English ballad, with no real melody.  I thought it was Peter Gabriel.  I kind of like it.

This is an enjoyable version, understated and kind of weary-sounding.

PATTI SMITH-“We Three Kings”
My daughter rightly said that this version was very weird.  Patti is at her most Patti.  There’s  aton of mumbled spoken word competing with the song.  Even the chorus, which is so wonderfully catchy, is played like a dirge.  And like everything else bad on this record, it goes on for nearly 6 minutes.  CDs were bad for allowing people to sing for too long.

[READ: December 24, 2017] “Tripping Sunny Chaudhry”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story actually takes place on Christmas Eve!

The narrator and her husband head back to New Jersey for the holidays.  Back when she was younger, all the kids would head out to the woods for beers and a bonfire.


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jean-jacques-sempe-the-new-yorker-cover-may-19-2008 SOUNDTRACK: IRENE DIAZ-Tiny Desk Concert #380 (August 9, 2014).

iremeVirtually no infomation is given about Diaz in the blurb for her Tiny Desk Concert.

“My Sweetest Sin” opens as a one minute acapella song before she sits down at the piano and is accompanied by Carolyn Cardoza strumming away intently on ukulele for “Crazy Love.”  Her voice sounds lovely by itself but it sounds even richer when accompanied by the spare instrumentation.

“Lover’s Sway” goes through several genres.  It opens with a jaunty showtune vibe and then slows down for the verses.  And then indeed it gets jaunty once again, in a very different way.

For the final song, “I Love You Madly” she switches to guitar.  She says it was her first love song because she used to write a lot of depressing songs.  This is a pretty, mellow song and she at times sounds a bit like a country singer and a bit like Natalie Merchant.  It’s a little too slow and long for my tastes, but it is very pretty.

Diaz is quite a talent with a nice range of styles.

[READ: February 24, 2016] “East Wind”

This is the story of Vernon, who had moved to an unspecified busy waterfront town just a few months earlier.  A recent spate of vandalism had caused some beach huts to be burned down.  The town was horrified, but he didn’t mind so much because it improved his view to the sea.

He is sitting in a restaurant, and when the waitress asks if he’s done he replies with the cryptic, “All the way from the Urals.” When the waitress is understandably confused he says that’s where the wind comes from.

The waitress, a strong-looking woman, pronounces it Oorals.  He assumes she is Eastern European, perhaps Polish.  He jokes with her that they should o for a swim.  She replies, no swim, although he hadn’t actually meant it.

He became a regular there.  And on another occasion he said to her that they should run away and live in a beach hut.  “I do not think,” she replied.  But then he asked her out and she said yes. (more…)

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popmechSOUNDTRACK: NATALIE MERCHANT-Tiny Desk Concert #500 (January 12, 2016).

nat merch Natalie Merchant was supposed to appear on a Tiny Desk show in 2014, but she was ill on that day (she even tells the story of going to the hospital).  She had to cancel the entire tour.  Turns out we saw her on that tour a couple of days before she got sick!

When Sarah and I saw her we both remarked on how great her voice still sounded.  And it sounds great here too.  The same instantly recognizable voice from her albums with all of the power and inflection that she’s always had.

Although I still don’t understand where her speaking voice accent comes from (she’s from upstate New York after all).

“Motherland” (a 2001 song) she dedicates to the staff of NPR.  Her accompaniment is an acoustic guitar, upright bass and accordion and it works very well for this slow, rather sad song.

“Texas” is another pretty, slow song from her 2014 album which she was supposed to pay at the Tiny Desk show.  She says he most regretted missing the Tiny Desk show when she had to cancel her tour.  She had no idea the desk was not so tiny and that it could fit 1000 people standing around watching.

Then she plugs her new album, Paradise Is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings.  It is a reworking of her songs from Tigerlily (and there was a documentary that accompanied it (which they were filming when we saw her).  She plays “Cowboy Romance” from that album.  I don’t know the original (or I don’t recognize the song) but it sounds fine in this stripped down format.

Even though her songs are rather serious, she’s quite silly with the band and crew.  She emphasis “CONfiguRAtion of muSICians” before introducing “Cowboy Romance.”

Everyone assumes she will play only three songs (the standard), but she has a special treat planned.  She says that she heard a story on NPR about how office workplaces would benefit from singing together.  And they are all trapped with her.  So she says they are going to sing a Protestant hymn that she recently found in a songbook in the library.

She says that she and the guitarist are Catholic, the accordionist is Jewish (from Israel) and the bassist has no religion.  he says he’s from the West Coast (she jokes that he’s from a cult in Oregon).  Then when she asks the guitarist what key it’s in and he says, “What song? ” to which everyone laughs because she never mentioned the title.

It’s a lovely old song which she teaches to the whole room.  After the first verse, she says she approves of the group sing-along and says it should be a weekly thing.  I love the way they split the screen to show the whole staff singing along. It’s quite lovely and the staff’s accompaniment is really pretty.

This is a delightful show and a very intimate performance by Natalie Merchant.

[READ: January 12, 2016] “Learning to Fly Part 2”

I really enjoyed Part 1 of this essay, but as often happens to me with broken up pieces, I forgot about the next part until long after.  So here it is over six months since I read Part 1 finally getting around to Part 2 (but at least I have Parts 3 and 4 with me so I’ll be finishing them up soon). (more…)

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nat[ATTENDED, July 8, 2014] An Evening with Natalie Merchant

Most of the shows that Sarah and I go to are for bands that I, or more often we, like.  We have very similar tastes in music, although I veer off in one way (extreme noise and metal) and she veers off in other ways (country).  So although I am usually on the look out for bands that I want to see, I know that there are artists that she would love to see as well.  And that’s where Natalie Merchant comes in.

I really liked 10,000 Maniacs, although by the end of their time, I felt like they were perhaps a bit too preachy.  When Merchant’s Tigerlily came out I mis-heard “Carnival” as “Carnivore” I thought it was a pointedly vegetarian song (and nobody needs that, frankly).  So although I liked some of the songs on the album, I didn’t really seek it out.

But Sarah loved Tigerlily and Ophelia, and I grew to enjoy them over the years as well.  Although neither one of us listened much to her output since then (which is actually four albums, including a new one which was released in May).  Suffice it to say that I knew fewer songs at this show than at any concert I’ve been to in a long time.

Having said all that, Merchant puts on a good show.  First off, her voice sounds amazing.  It’s instantly recognizable as hers and she can still hit all of the notes (not that she does many high notes) with the richness and fullness that I know of her.  I was immediately impressed with how great she sounded.  Also, the band sounded great too.  She had a small string section (two violin, a viola and an upright bass), a drummer, a keyboardist and a guitarist.  While some credit goes to the State Theatre’s acoustics (we were in the very top section of cheap seats), the strings sounded wonderfully lush and the drums in particular sounded great.  The one drawback is that we could barely see her–I couldn’t see he face at all really, although I did enjoy seeing her long gray hair spinning around her head. (more…)

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