Giving up everything, see the whole magnificent emptiness […]
Giving up everything, the compass and the map I was reading […] 
Giving up everything, the big to-do, the hullabaloo, the tug-of-war for some twisted truth.
For the everlasting ache of it, no longer slave, not chained to it,
No gate, no guard, no keeper, no guru, master, teacher.

The singer songwriter’s zen-like letting go of attachment in the superb “Giving up everything” almost sounds like a rebirth for the now 50-year old Natalie Merchant. The self-titled Natalie Merchant is the American singer songwriter’s first collection of original songs since her 2001 opus Motherland. But “you can’t find your voice until you’ve looked for it for a long time” she notes.

Natalie Merchant (2014)
Natalie Merchant (2014)

The past 13 years saw the former 10,000 Maniacs singer take a break from the music industry, release independently a collection of folksong covers (The House Carpenter’s Daughter in 2003), get married, retreat to the family home to raise her daughter, get divorced, work for 7 years on Leave Your Sleep (2010) – her splendid adaptation of children’s poems and nursery rhymes – and collaborate on various musical projects or community-based actions.

The new songs delve into political and environmental commentary or introduce a collection of intimate and empathetic portraits dealing with human experience (transformation, grief, breakup, aging etc.)

Musically, this “mature” album translates into a soulful and perfectly crafted blend of folk-rock and classical influences:

For the last four and a half five years, I’ve exclusively performed as a guest soloist with orchestras.  It has really trained my ear as an arranger.  And I wanted to blend those two worlds on this record.  All the years of making pop music with a standard electric band and this new world that I inhabit now full of symphonic instruments. A conversation with Natalie Merchant

Natalie Merchant was released on 6th May 2014 last on the Nonesuch record label.