Shortly after her last studio album, 2003′s The House Carpenter’s Daughter, Natalie Merchant had a daughter of her own and has since remained almost utterly silent on the music front, apart from 2005′s timely retrospective that neatly summarised the first 15 years of her solo career. That’s about to change as Natalie made the long-awaited announcement that she is back in the studio recording her first album of original material since 2001′s Motherland, and she’s not short of company. Revealing a huge list of collaborators, including The Ditty Bops and longtime friend Katell Keineg, Natalie wrote on her website that she’s looking at the project as her “opportunity to do some exploring.”
Musician/composer Stephen Barber wrote on his website in January that in “the first leg of his participation with the new Natalie Merchant Project…30 tracks [were] recorded from every musical dialect imaginable,” adding that there is talk that the album will be released some time this year. Jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood, Grammy-winning klezmer band The Klezmatics, NY chamber music outfit The Meridian Arts Ensemble, legendary gospel group The Fairfield Four, blues and roots band Hazmat Modine, world music innovators Caramon Quartet, traditional Irish folk band Lúnasa and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis complete the impressive roster of guests.
“I’ve never had such a massive amount of material to draw from before,” writes Natalie. “I’ve been writing continuously for the past seven years. I’ve wanted to make another album but knew that it’s a full-immersion process and I didn’t want to sacrifice the time and attention that my child deserved. Now that she is older the time feels right.” Venezuelan producer and Yerba Buena frontman Andres Levin will helm the album alongside “soundtrack recordist” Nick Wollage (‘Atonement’, ‘Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire’). “The results have been magical, some of the best musical experiences of my life,” says Natalie.
No word on that rumoured album of children’s music yet though.