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CD Review: Natalie Merchant

Leave Your Sleep (Nonesuch)

On her first album in seven years, former 10,000 Maniacs frontwoman Natalie Merchant assembled nearly 130 musicians who delve into all sorts of musical styles, including Cajun, bluegrass, reggae and Celtic folk. Merchant isn't known for having an eclectic palette, but she proves more than capable of keeping up with Medeski, Martin and Wood, the Wynton Marsalis Quintet, and the Klezmatics here. And though she's known for being super-serious, Merchant does lighten up occasionally, particularly on the nursery rhyme-like "Topsyturvey-World" and the breezy "Calico Pie." From the lilting zydeco-flavored "Adventures of Isabel" to the New Orleans-style jazz swing of "The Janitor's Boy," Merchant goes all over the musical map and has the vocal pipes to pull it off. The album is available in both single-disc and a double-disc versions. The 26-song two-disc set is so strong, it's well worth the investment. — Jeff Niesel

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