Tigerlily marks Merchant's independence and talent
Electra Entertainment.By Jin Park
Singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant debuts with a solo album entitled Tigerlily. The much anticipated release comes after her departure from the 10,000 Maniacs. Tigerlily presents eleven elegant songs that highlight Merchant's lyrical poise without the overbearing support by members of the group.
Her previous recordings with the Maniacs were compromised by other musicians vying for the spotlight. Their songs often sounded like a circus of musicians and distracted the listener from fully appreciating Merchant's vocal talent.
However, Tigerlily provides competent and controlled instrumental support. Guitarist Jennifer Turner, bassist Barrie Maguire, and percussionist Peter Yanowitz allow Merchant to shine. They all have a keen sense of Merchant's unique melodic phrasing. In the song "Where I Go," Turner's guitar and Merchant's vocals complement each other in a crafty duet.
In Merchant's hit single "Carnival," bassist Maguire and Adrian Guevarra on congos provide the atmosphere of New York City's crazed streets. Merchant's insightful lyrics refer to them as a "virtual stage" filled with "cheap thrill seekers" and "wild eyed misfit prophets." Merchant describes the surreal life in the city and her hesitance to "play along/hypnotized/paralyzed."
The song "River" is dedicated in memory of River Phoenix, the young Hollywood star who died of an apparent drug overdose. Her lyrics are a plea to leave River Phoenix's soul to rest. She decries the media who have recklessly sought to expose Phoenix's life. She sings "he's gone / we know / give his mother and his father peace / your vulture's candor / your casual slander / you murder his memory / he's gone / we know / it's nothing but a tragedy."
In "I May Know The Word," Merchant sings of indifference and self-doubt. Like many of the other songs in the album, this one is marked by its utter simplicity. It begins with Merchant singing the first line "I may know the words" while playing single chords on the vibraphone. She is accompanied by a restrained percussion. The bass and guitar sneak up in the middle of the song with a mellow sound. The song lasts for eight drawn out minutes and ends with a fiery guitar solo.
The strength of Tigerlily lies in Merchant's simple, haunting lyrics. She sings them as a woman possessed, delivering each word with mysterious inflections and overtones. No matter how simple the chord progression and structure of her songs may be, Merchant does not allow them to be ordinary by any means. She sings with intrigue, inviting the listener to ponder over her words. As both poet and musician, Natalie Merchant knows how to bring to life her commanding lyrics. Not a single word in the entire album is sung without enchantment. Tigerlily is both comforting and chilling at the same time.