Home Read Classic Album Review: Natalie Merchant | Motherland

Classic Album Review: Natalie Merchant | Motherland

The 10,000 Maniacs' singer's bluesy release crosses stylistic borders with ease.

This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


For an album called Motherland, Natalie Merchant’s latest can sometimes be hard to pinpoint on a musical map.

Although the general direction she’s heading is somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon, this album meanders between genres and crosses stylistic borders with ease and grace, and these dozen tracks invent new genres like Middle Eastern reggae (the offbeat belly-dance This House Is On Fire), Left Bank bluegrass (the accordion and acoustic-guitar ballad title track), and Appalachian soul-rock (the smouldering and banjo-flecked Saint Judas), along with more traditional southern blues (Put The Law On You) and chamber-folk (Henry Darger) — and, occasionally, even the strummy, jangly folk-rock of her old band 10,000 Maniacs (Tell Yourself). All voiced in Merchant’s rich, earthy tones and sometimes accompanied by the intoxicating backup vocals of Mavis Staples. Ballsy, bluesy and beautiful, Motherland is a tad ballad-heavy, but a great place to visit.

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