Music, voice, words, sound and feel.
And the puzzle is completed.
For years, Natalie Merchant has laid claim to one of music's finest, most distinct voxes.
It's the type of voice that recalls a raindrop rolling down a hill -- slow, fluid, natural, picking up enough earth to give it added life, but not too much to slow it down or muddy its delivery.
But along the way, in her current solo incarnation and previously as the frontwoman for alt rock act 10,000 Maniacs, the songwriting and the music itself have rarely matched Merchant -- mundane as often as it was magical.
On Motherland, her third solo release, she delivers her first consistently wonderful collection of adult contemporary pop songs worthy of her instrument.
Merchant, with the help of co-producer T-Bone Burnett, has built a lush, stunning Van Morrison abode for that voice, and coloured it with light strings, grounding organs, warm guitars, sparkling percussion, melodies, poetry, airiness, emotions, and an unspoken, unbreakable strength.
From the Cowboy Junkies jazz blues of Put the Law On You (topped off with a sexy sax skronk), to the sombre, lilting classical fairytale Henry Darger and the straight-up Maniac pop of Tell Yourself, Motherland is a quietly winning album that grows on you in a manner that's incredibly easy.
( More on Natalie Merchant )
1. This House Is On Fire
3. Saint Judas
4. Put The Law On You
5. Build A Levee
6. Golden Boy
7. The Ballad Of Henry Darger
8. Tell Yourself
9. Just Can't Last
10.Not In This Life
11.I'm Not Gonna Beg