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Natalie Merchant’s Paradise Is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings is a collection of all-new recordings that revisits Merchant’s multi-platinum solo debut, Tigerlily, originally released in 1995 following her departure from 10,000 Maniacs.
Tigerlily was described by the New York Times in 1995 as ‘an anomaly in a music scene in which reckless female performers reign supreme’. The album sold more than five million copies worldwide and featured the popular hit singles ‘Carnival’, ‘Wonder’, and ‘Jealousy’. Paradise Is There presents the songs as they have evolved over the past two decades of live performance. Joining Merchant on the album, which she produced herself, are her long-time band members Gabriel Gordon (guitar), Jesse Murphy (bass), Uri Sharlin (piano & accordion), and Allison Miller (drums), as well as a string quartet – Scot Moore (violin), Shawn Moore (violin), Marandi Hostetter (viola), and Stanley Moore (cello) – plus Sharel Cassity (saxophone), and guest vocals by Simi Stone, Gail Ann Dorsey, and Elizabeth Mitchell.
“Tigerlily is the most significant album I’ve made because it defined me as an independent songwriter after 12 years in 10,000 Maniacs,” Merchant explains, “It also created a bond between me and an audience that has supported and sustained me for 20 years. I decided to make the Paradise Is There album and film for them, to honor the journey that we, and these songs, have all taken. Songs have new life breathed into them every time they are sung. Time has changed them as much as it has changed me.’” She continues, “I wanted to record these songs again because it seemed unfair to confine them to the way that they were performed in the studio in 1995. They are so versatile, whether I strip them bare or enhance them with strings, and they lend themselves so well to re-arrangement. There are several songs from Tigerlily – ‘Carnival’, ‘Wonder’, ‘Beloved Wife’, ‘River’, and ‘Cowboy Romance’ – that remain at the core of my live shows. They still have relevance to me and, by the response they receive, I can tell that they still resonate with my audience,” Merchant says. “I’ve spent a full year preparing this album and film, and the process gave me a chance to take the measure of everything that’s happened because of Tigerlily. The distance this music traveled once it left my hands is humbling, and I am moved by how many lives it has touched along the way.”
Merchant’s career began in 1981 when, as a college student, she joined the seminal alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs, which signed to Elektra Records in 1984. As lead vocalist, lyricist, and sometimes pianist, Merchant released six critically acclaimed studio albums with the band, including the platinum-certified In My Tribe (1987), Blind Man’s Zoo (1989), Our Time in Eden (1992), and MTV Unplugged (1993). She left the group in 1993, and in 1995 released her multi-platinum solo debut, Tigerlily, followed by the platinum Ophelia (1998) and Motherland (2001). In 2003 she independently released an album of traditional and contemporary folk music, The House Carpenter’s Daughter, which also coincided with the birth of her child. For the next seven years she lived quietly in New York’s Hudson Valley devoting herself to family and community, while taking opportunities to collaborate with other musicians and strengthen her commitment to activism and philanthropy.
In 2010, Merchant returned with a thematic double album, Leave Your Sleep, her debut for Nonesuch Records. For this meditation on childhood and mothering Merchant set 19th- and 20th century American and British children’s poetry to music. She also collaborated with award-winning children’s book illustrator Barbara McClintock for a picture book based on the album. In 2014, Nonesuch released Natalie Merchant, her sixth solo album and first of entirely original songs in 13 years, which the New York Times called a ‘set of dark, brave, thoughtful and serenely startling songs’ and the Daily Telegraph praised for the ‘intelligence of her writing, and piercing character studies that thicken with each musical brushstroke’. Merchant remains dedicated to a wide array of social justice and environmental causes. Recently, she spearheaded the making of the protest concert film Dear Governor Cuomo (2013) with New Yorkers Against Fracking, actors Mark Ruffalo and Melissa Leo, and filmmakers Jon Bowermaster and Alex Gibney, and she directed and produced SHELTER: A Concert Film to Benefit Victims of Domestic Violence (2014).
Andy says: Her finest hour, even better than 10,000 Maniacs. Possibly! Either way: superb songs, gorgeous voice. Brilliant.
1. San Andreas Fault
2. Beloved Wife
5. The Letter
6. Where I Go
7. I May Know The Word
8. Seven Years
9. Cowboy Romance