Merchant, Natalie. Leave Your Sleep: a Collection of Classic Children’s Poetry. New York: Frances Foster Books, 2012.
I will admit I am biased when it comes to anything Natalie Merchant puts her stamp on. Over the years Ms. Merchant has proven time and time again that she is a humanitarian and an educator. She just happens to have a beautiful voice to go with that caring heart. And having all said that, that is why I bought three copies of Leave Your Sleep. I thought it was appropriate to send one to my public library. I took the chance because there is no way of knowing if they bought it for themselves (no online catalog) but I doubt they did. I also bought a copy for my sister’s family. I don’t know if they will listen to it more than once so I have asked them to pass it along to their public library when they are finished. Do you see a pattern?
Then, of course, I bought my own copy. I will not be donating mine to any local library, though!
Leave Your Sleep is comprised of nineteen poems set to music and, in the book version, accompanied by the wonderful illustrations of Barbara McClintock. Having the illustrations in front of me banishes my own imaginings but at the same time expands my visions, if that makes sense. For example, take The Sleepy Giant by Charles Edward Carryl. When I first heard Natalie’s musical interpretation in 2008 my mind saw an ancient old man for a giant who was decidedly, thanks to an accordion and somber drums, very very creepy. In the book version of Leave Your Sleep the 372 year old giant is a portly Victorian woman looking a bit like Winston Churchill. Not as creepy as my own imagination scared me. On the other hand the village in Vain and Careless by Robert Graves far exceeded the pictures in my head. The poem came alive in ways it hadn’t before seeing it on the printed page.
The continuing magic is how the book is arranged. Thoughtful consideration was given to every aspect from layout to packaging. Ms. Merchant’s introduction personalizes the project and gives the poems a resonating warmth. I am guessing she thoroughly collaborated on the illustrations because the girl in Equestrienne by Rachel Field looks a lot like Natalie in her video for the song Kind and Generous.
My favorite poem in the entire collection (cd and book) remains ee cummings’s Maggie and Milly and Molly and May. It’s my childhood played out before me.
- Tell Kyle
- Bring on the Rain
- Erina Rose
- Miss You
- Oh Nashville
- On Your Way Down
- Goodbye For the Last Time
- No Such Fairytale
- Hold Me
- Sonnet #30
There is something about outdoor music, especially when the weather is perfect and the bugs are held at bay. People pull out snacks, snap open lawn chairs and spread out blankets, complete with coolers and cameras. Laughter bounces off conversations and excitement mingles with anticipation. We are ready for music. The Soul of Me cd release party was like this – a combination of family and friends getting together like a gigantic gourmet picnic in the park and the thrill of new music. Hugging and catching up between sips of wine and bites of food. A backyard oasis of tiny white lights and chocolate covered strawberries. And That Voice.
The above setlist is not from the cd release party. I wasn’t willing to spend my time writing each song down… in the dying light and approaching dark. Instead, this is the track list for Rebecca’s new cd, Soul of Me. Rebecca sang all the songs except “No Such Fairytale” “Goodbye for the Last Time” and “Hold Me.” I was relieved she didn’t sing “Hold Me” because I was ripe for a good cry and I didn’t need to be turning on the waterworks at that particular time! She did throw in some extras like a cover mix, an oldie from Memories of Their Love and a little something about Gene Simmons in her grocery store…
Side story: When Rebecca introduced Chris from ‘The Everyday Visuals’ there was a moment of deja vu. How do I know you? Where do I know you from? Do I know you or is my mind playing tricks on me? As Chris began to sing and tell stories the nagging thought I had seen him before simply would not leave my mind. Turns out ‘The Everyday Visuals’ played in the Boston Pop’s cafe the same night Natalie played at Edgefest (the ticket to Natalie got you in to see ‘The Everyday Visuals’ as well). TEVs were the band I could have seen had my family been interested in a little more music after Natalie…
All in all it was a great night and I wish I could have stayed to see Rebecca’s after-show antics! Maybe next time.
I ask a lot of my friends. I really, really do. Support this unsigned artist. Donate to my
run walk. Come to this new restaurant with me. Hear this crazy-azz dream I had. Calm me down. Pick me up. Givegivegive. It’s amazing the amount of love I asked for from my friends. It’s amazing how amazing my friends really are.
Why all this gushing? Not only did the great ones donate to my 60 mile, three day walk for Just ‘Cause, they rallied together to support Sean Rowe’s cd release of ‘Magic.’
We piled in the magic truck and bombed our way to Cohoes, NY. Laughing all the way, we weaved in and out of traffic and got there in record time. Just in time to miss just one song. We got there in time to catch ‘Jonathan’ and get caught up in the electric vibe. Sean sounded great and I couldn’t wait for every word. After waiting for brownies and a monkey-something-er-rather we got settled by the stairs. I think B had bathroom duty without realizing it. Crammed in I couldn’t see Sean but, I don’t need to see the man to hear the words and feel the sound.
After the first set my friend I have dubbed God (don’t ask) snagged spots at the top of the stairs for all of us. Great spot! The view looking out over the crowd was great. The sound was phenomenal. The fresh air from the back door was heavenly. The company was cool.
Wait. Let me talk about that for a minute. I always stress about bringing someone new to see unknown music. It’s always a gamble. I took someone to see sirsy a few years back. Virgin territory. She walked out halfway through the first set and never came back. So I worry. I convince someone to make the trek and maybe they’ll hate it. Hate me. Not so Sean night. B doesn’t know me all that well. Knows the music all that less. Maybe even knows Cohoes not at all. Not only did he subject himself to all that, he survived it all. He had good things to say about the venue, better things to say about the beer, and the best things to say about Sean. It rocked. He rocked.
But, back to Sean. He also rocked in all the right ways. I love the new version of ‘Jonathan.’ I say new because I’m used to the pared down, sparse and folky version of the song. This version builds in intensity that matches the lyrics and the passion. It’s perfect. In some ways it’s even better than the version I’m used to. ‘Trademark of Fools’ almost didn’t make it out of Sean’s mouth. Luckily, the motto is “the crowd is always right” and we got him to get it out. As usual ‘Wet’ wrecked me. Happens everytime. Having the fortress of friends around me really, really helped. Manda, your tissue delivery was well timed. I would have snotted Ruby if you hadn’t magically appeared!
I had to ask Sean for a setlist and here’s the laid back, way-cool answer:
hmmmm. i don’t know if i quite remember
duct tape man
you’re so real
blue grass baby
draw the line
vincent black lightning
trademark of fools
why i sing the blues
there is a man
my father’s name
the long haul
i may be leaving something out and some of the tunes i may have the order slightly wrong but i think this is pretty accurate. hope that helps. xo
Sorry this isn’t much of a review. Now that the album is out I want to sit silent and listen to it from start to finish. I’ll write something more Magic-centric then. For now, trust me when I say it is AMAZING!
I have been known to get lazy, to get uninspired, to get quiet, withdraw and quietly disappear. When that happens nothing wakes me, nothing moves me, nothing touches me, nothing makes me anything. Period. Such was my complacent situation recently. People would text. I would untext right back. People would call. I wouldn’t hang up because I didn’t pick up. Invitations would come in. My silence would go right back out. It’s not that I wanted to ignore you. It’s just that I couldn’t help myself. You didn’t need me. And I knew it.
Today is a whole new day. the sun is shining. The clouds have blown away. I not only accepted an invitation I made one of my own. And Magic is coming. For those of you who don’t know, Magic is the name of Sean Rowe’s newest album. Long, long, long anticipated album, I should say. I have been looking forward to this since forever. Forever and a day. Now, it has a drop date. It has an estimated time of arrival. Soon it will be here. Here’s the tracklist (and to think I almost said setlist – don’t I wish):
- Time to Think
- Old Black Dodge
- The Walker
- Wrong Side of the Bed
- The Long Haul
I have to tell you, Jonathan and Wet are my two favorites. Not that I don’t appreciate everything else on the album. I do, I do. (Wrong Side of the Bed and Surprise are my very-close-to-favorite-but-still-second fav songs). It’s just that Wet leaves me breathless and now, having heard the studio version of Jonathan I have chills. Chills and goosebumps to be specific. That song alone is magic. Pure magic. Never mind what happens when it’s more than just the song alone. I don’t want to focus on the singer when the songwriting is more than brilliant, more than amazing. As always, it’s the words that get me, the words that keep me.
I know for a fact I am clearing my schedule for 5/15/09 and 5/23/09 – two Sean gigs “locally.” I have had an awakening. Thanks, Sean.
Truth be told, the dying days of December have been drying up my peace and goodwill. This has been a month full of disappointment, fear, sadness and anger. This weekend I was bound and determined to practice a little generosity, a little grace. It started with keeping the library open for 5 1/2 extra hours. We were supposed to close due to the pending storm but I refused to be pansy about the precipitation. If the students had be stuck I was determined to be stuck with them. It was worth every suspicious look, every odd comment.
Rebecca’s show couldn’t have come at a worse time. We had barely cleaned up from one storm when we were slapped with another. All day I watched the snow come down, relentless in his drive to cover every sidewalk, every street and every vehicle. I shoveled my in-laws walkway, our sidewalk, and most of our driveways twice before giving up, giving in to the cold, wet exhaustion. I couldn’t keep up. In a way it was a good thing. I caught my mother’s phone call. She wanted to talk out her nervousness. Her father’s surgery is mere weeks away. She’s a little more blunt, “did you tell them he’s getting his leg cut off?” I winced at her harshness. I know it’s her way of coping but it still bites. To change the subject we talked of cancer and motherless children. I still can’t make sense of dying 10 days before Christmas. That iron determination just couldn’t hold on. I tell mom about the obituary taped to my computer. It smiles at me every morning. A reminder that life is sweet and oh so short.
Finally it was time to head to Rebecca’s show. My mother-in-law drove. No one else came yet strangers packed the Iron Horse. I watched my phone and worried about the roads. An unused ticket sat waiting at the counter. I only relaxed when I got word no one else would be coming. Safe and sound was all I cared about until Rebecca started to sing. Here’s the short but sweet setlist:
- On Your Way Down
- Miss You
- Bring on the Rain (with comments about not needing any more precipitation)
- Tell Kyle (“a true story about mixing business with pleasure. I don’t recommend it.”)
- Home (a song about being on the rebound. I still call this Cowboy Christmas.)
- Hold Me (I love the way Rebecca introduces this song. It’s beautiful.)
What made this show so special was this was the first time Rebecca didn’t have to sell a certain number of tickets in advance. For the first time ever the Iron Horse was able to comp her tickets, too. She tried to give me one but, but! But, I had already bought two in advance. Woops. I assured her I would never, ever accept a free ticket unless she was the headlining act. We made a deal. On the day that she becomes the big show, she could comp me a ticket – until then, I pay my own way.
I love it when a plan comes together. Things you don’t intend to happen just do and for the better. I didn’t intend for the Sean night to be just Kisa and I but I’m glad it turned out that way. We haven’t been to see a show, just the two of us, in a really, really long time. We took the opportunity to prowl around a new town scoping out the real estate it had to offer. I didn’t intend to see a twin of my first “dream house” but there it was, in the same town on the same street. They are mirror images of one another…including the price. I dared to dream for just a minute about having a second chance at a first house.
I didn’t intend for us to stop in Albany for dinner. I mentioned a place, said I had no idea where it was or even what it was really called. Kisa pointed in Tom’s direction and said, “ask him.” Tom knew the place and even how to get there (or should that be the other way around because how to get there is a given?) and so we went. Better blog about bombing Bombers later…
I didn’t intend for us to sit front row for Sean’s show. I was hoping for a quiet corner, something with candles and coffee. Instead, we found a couch with cinnamon sweet cider and a chocolate brownie to split. Sean, as usual, was amazing. I’m never, ever disappointed after seeing a show. Here’s the setlist:
- Bluegrass Baby
- Night (awesome, awesome tune)
- Into the Mystic
- Surprise (new album song)
- The Blues (?)
- Tomorrow Loves a Long Time
- Draw the Line
- Black Lightning
- Old Black Dodge
- Trademark of Fools (still an old favorite)
- Wrong Side of the Bed (new album song)
- Jonathan (new album song – still one of my favs)
- Wet (new album song)
- Everybody’s Talking
- Check It Out
- American (new album song)
- Alone (old fav – almost didn’t think I was going to hear it!)
We went to see Trey Friday night. Last time we saw him at the Palace Theater two years ago (the Palace happens to be one of my all time favorite venues – right up there with the Calvin – but we decided to see T. somewhere different this time). The Oakdale would be on the top of my list if the Connecticut crowd was a little more alive and with it. Their lack of energy dragged us down – but more on that later.
It was supposed to be a 7:30pm show without an opener, but Trey true to form made us wait. I didn’t mind the hanging out part. People watching is always at a premium at anything hippie related. Plus, the Oakdale has some sort of texting entertainment going on. We could watch video screens of text messages – stuff like “wave your arms if you like so and so.” No one did.
There were a mix of ages and personalities roaming the aisles. Your standard Phish friendly hippies with hemp clothing and masses of dreadlocks, Remember-When Deadheads with tie dye tee shirts and corduroy overalls, College preps with baseball caps on backwards and baggy jeans, flowing dresses, bandannas and beads. Some lady lost her rock in the seats behind us. It got me wondering where I fit into all this. Maybe I have that peace-love-happiness hippie philosophy at heart when I prefer to be barefoot, refuse to wear a bra or comb my hair, but I’m not so sure.
Finally, Trey graced us with his presence and the crowd settled down, way down. His voice definitely sounded better than when we saw him last. And while the band wasn’t as big (no horns) they definitely put out some great sound. Except. Except the crowd seemed asleep on their feet. Clapping was polite, cheering was at a minimum. Even I didn’t really dance. I couldn’t spin in the aisles for fear of falling on my ass. I wasn’t stable in my row of seats. Rooted to the spot I was content to sway tree-like, occasionally pounding the hip that started to ache. Here’s what we heard:
- Dark & Down
- Money Love and Change
- Sweet Dreams Melinda
- Push on Through the Day
- Gotta Jiboo
- Windora Bug
Then we left. Yup. Maybe it was the lack of energy in the crowd. Maybe it was because we put in a long week at work. Maybe we’re just old…Here’s what we missed:
- Burlap Sack & Pumps
- Case of Ice & Snow (B’s crack cocaine song)
- Dragonfly (the only song I wanted to hear & expected to hear)
- Water in the Sky
- Waste (the song I really, really wanted to hear but didn’t expect to)
- First Tube (Farmhouse!)
When it comes to music I need advance notice. I need a schedule. I need a plan. I think that’s why last month’s trek to Worcester was so weird. It’s really rare when I catch a performance on a whim, when I don’t know the whole game plan. It’s like a perfect storm – everything needs to be aligned – conditions exact.
Why am I saying this? Where am I going with this? Sean Rowe. I caught his live radio show completely by accident. Here’s what happened:
Today was a farm day. Depressing. Everything is started to die. Damp, sour, rot. There is decay in the fields. Tomatoes and tomatillos lie dirt bound, their green leaves history. A quietness in the raspberry bushes. They no longer buzz with the frenzy of bees and butterflies. It’s getting too cold. I didn’t stay long. I stocked up on carrots, purple onions, bok choy, spinach, arugula, and kale. Carefully cut bouquets of basil, oregano, flat leaf parsley, thyme and rosemary… then sadly turned away.
At home the sadness hung off my shoulders, made me heavy and tired. Determined to get lost in sunny California I read The Nowhere City by Alison Lurie until sleep dropped my book and closed my eyes. When I woke I checked email and found Surprise and sheer luck. Sean was live in the 97.7 wnex studio and shock of all shocks, I hadn’t miss it. I had 2 minutes to spare, even. Shocker. I connected without confusion. Here’s the setlist:
- Jonathan ~ did NOT expect to hear this one. It’s one of my favorites.
- Wrong side of the bed
It was nice to hear Sean talk about the music. Don’t get me wrong, I like hearing him sing. But, But! There is something to what he says when he sings. There is something to where he is going with his songs. I like hearing about that, too. It makes the music move in different ways, if that makes sense.
So, thank you wnex, thank you Sean for the nice surprise. Can’t wait for the new album! It will be ‘Magic’ (pun completely intended)!
I never remember to write a setlist while Rebecca is singing. I never try to write a review while in the midst of her music. It is hard enough to acknowledge the friends and family around me let alone pay attention to pen and paper.
Yet. And yet trying to review after the fact is always a daunting task. The mind is a funny thing. I might remember something out of order. I may remember something that may or may not have ever happened. Who really knows?
But, here is how I think it went:
- Tell Kyle
- Miss You
- Nashville (? new song)
- Hold Me
- Raining in Georgia**
* Encore encouraged by Vance Gilbert
** Performed with Vance Gilbert
After a small confusion with the tickets we all finally got seated and situated in a darker than dark corner. We sat at a high, wobbly table on stools too high for me. I remained half standing, turned away from my party in order to enjoy the show.
Rebecca looked great. Summer has agreed with her (love the haircut – somehow it looks different from the last time we saw her). She opened at the keyboard with Breathe, the song she wrote when she was just 16 years old. I always picture something different every time I hear this song. She didn’t go back to the keyboard again, but played guitar for the rest of the set. I’m not sure of the order of the rest of the show except the last two songs.
I’m sure Nashville isn’t the name of the new song but Rebecca told a funny story about how when she moved there she missed Massachusetts…but as soon as she came home she wrote a song about coming home…to Nashville. I know exactly how she feels. I have that same pull to Colorado.
Hold Me is always going to devastate me. I can remember the day after I finished running 13.1 miles for LLS I found out someone I had been running in honor of had since passed, my friend’s cancer was back with a vengeance and Rebecca’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It made me feel like everything I had been fighting for failed in some twisted, horrific way. Rebecca’s mom was at the show and I’m sure she had tears of pride in her eyes as she heard Hold Me.
I am greatful to Vance for getting Rebecca back on the stage to sing Home, the Cowboy Christmas song. It’s definitely one of my favorites from the Turks album (it ends the album). I love the fiestiness of it.
As a special treat Vance Gilbert asked Rebecca to join him for a song. No other headliner does that (least not while I’m there). They sang Raining in Georgia together. At first it was simply amazing. Then it turned funny as they tried to outdo each other (last time they did this Rebecca ended up doing a handstand on stage because she couldn’t compete with Vance’s scat abilities). Rebecca’s voice has a richness to it. It takes you places. As Vance said, Rebecca has the voice of a broken angel. So, so true.
Thanks for the tears, girl. They needed to be shed.
Notes to myself.
You must remember the coffee is terrible. You must remember the chairs are dreadful. You must remember to buy merchandise directly through the performer’s website and not at the venue. These are things you should already know about the Iron Horse. Here are some new ones: You also must remember not to order the fries. They do not resemble potatoes in the slightest; the waitstaff definitely will not remember to bring you vinegar and above all else, you will let these so-called potato things grow cold while Rebecca sings.
Here are other things you could do well to remember: For starters, do not be afraid to get up and move around in order to take better pictures of Rebecca’s performance. You really should know by now that any more than ten feet away is going to render your little elf useless.
Second of all, and this is something you definitely should know by now: remember to bring tissues. Face facts. Some of Rebecca’s music hits home and hurts to the bone. You are going to cry whether you want to or not. At some time or another it’s going to happen. It’s a sure thing if ‘Hold Me’ is on the imaginary set list so suck it up and bring tissues.
To be continued…
The slightly negative imagery is the only way for me to explain what has been happening. While this sounds bad it’s not. It’s a good thing. Honestly.
I’m getting tripped up in Sean Rowe’s music. Here’s that awful analogy – it’s like trying to escape from a sticky situation and finding yourself more and more entrapped & entangled. It’s starts off uncomplicated, of little consequence until it’s all consuming. I know I’m not making sense but I can’t explain it. For the longest time I was fixated on another kind of music. Some say obsessed. I’d say they weren’t that far off. It took getting over the addiction to open my ears to something else. And that something else led me to Sean Rowe. Here’s another analogy – being stuck in a room full of smokers, choking on fumes, unable to find the door. Fumbling, stumbling until I can open a window and breathe. The fresh air is the new music I am craving.
Everyone knows I am locked in by lyrics. Anything beyond Ooh Baby Baby, anything with an ounce of thought gets my attention. I can remember sitting with Melanie from the band sirsy and listening to her explain the research behind Mercury. Before even hearing it the song became a favorite. Why? Because there was some intelligence in the process. There was some thought to the theme.
Such is Sean’s music. The last time I saw him I called ‘Jonathan’ creepy. I was worried I would offend, but truly it was the only way to explain how the lyrics moved through me, pausing to strangle my heart and moving on to choke my emotions. It was creepy the power this song had (and still has) over me.
This last time to see Sean was something else. This was the first time hearing covers. This was the first time I had to shut out the obnoxious barflies who simply wouldn’t shut up. I shut my eyes and concentrated on the words. I had to shut down the urge to kill the useless conversations around me.
I still like ‘Wet’ best. It’s like a beauty born out of tragedy.
‘Trademark of Fools’ is still amazing as is ‘Alone.’
We thought that July 11th might make for an interesting trip, but I have carrots with my name on them. I think 8/1 is the next fix. I’ll wear my new shirt 😉
I wanted to wait a little while before writing about Sean’s gig because, well, because I needed to take it all in. It’s funny how music works that way on me. Sometimes it just reaches out and takes hold and won’t let go. Sometimes it thieves my heart away and other times it just leaves me silent.
In the past I wanted to drag as many people as possible to see shows. Promote, promote, promote! It got to the point where I had exhausted the friend list and got nothing in return. It got to that been-there, done-that, same ole-same ole routine. Some fans didn’t stick while others have stuck around to this day. It use to stress me out – that line of lovers and haters. These days I go where I want to go and don’t worry about the fan base, the fanfare. It’s gotten simpler. Much.
So, seeing Sean started out as something unexpected. Back when I first heard his music I froze in the middle of the floor. I must have looked ridiculous and I’m sure I got laughed at. I’m going to skip the oft-mentioned review of how his voice sounds and tell you what really grabbed me. I hear drums in this one-man, one-guitar show. I hear a beat so loud and solid I can do nothing more than stop and stare; barely breathe. Combine that with absolutely amazing lyrics and I have been hooked ever since.
So, the four of us made the tiny trek north. We wandered around town, peering into shop windows, our minds tasting the menus plastered there, lazily looking for the best place for a bite. We settled on a new place – first night open to the public. Good food, better atmosphere, great service. I made a mental note to come back. I know someone who would think it perfect.
Mocha Maya’s. Just in time for music. Sean Rowe (Speaking of perfect).
I have to admit I had to ask Sean for a set list because a) he has new music I haven’t heard before & new(er) ones I have yet to commit to memory. Here’s what he remembers:
Jonathan (the song I called ‘creepy’. I don’t expect anyone to understand that…It’s why I love Halloween).
Rock me baby
why i sing the blues
I also think In the Diamonds was in there somewhere, but I have no idea why. We did listen to Sean on the way up to the gig…
My new favorite song: Wet. Beyond beautiful. Sean doesn’t have it on his website as a free listen-to, but it will be on the new album due out Sept 4th, 2008 (hopefully)…
My next gig: July 4th!
It finally dawned on me that I should post a formal announcement that Rebecca’s show in Simsbury has been canceled. I had forgotten that I had promised free drinks to anyone who showed up. Sorry ’bout that. Next time she has a gig anywhere close to here I will renew the invitation. In the meantime, visit her myspace page for other gigs, new photos and music!
Of course I will have to write something a bit more about this (how could I not?), but for now here’s this:
- Autumn Lullabye
- Man in the Wilderness
- The Letter
- Sonnet #73
- Life is Sweet
- Verdi Cries
- Spring and Fall: To a young Child
- Henry Darger
- This House is on Fire
- The End
For now, I am stunned into silence. More later.
For those of you who know Rebecca:
She is moving home for the summer! For those of you who know ME that means I get to swing back into promotion action. YAY! I have missed being the rabid fan. 8)
For those of you who don’t know Rebecca:
Please, please, please check her out! Here’s a website to get you started. Her “site” song is one she wrote while still in high school. “Miss You” is one of my favorites and “Quiet Hands” was the First Dance song at my wedding. This entire Miss You album is amazing.
For EVERYONE: Mark your calendars. June 1st. Simsbury, CT. Rebecca will be performing. Yeah, yeah. It’s a Sunday but I think she goes on early. I don’t have all the information….so stay tuned. Here’s a preliminary promise. If you show AND *stay for Rebecca’s whole show* I’ll buy you a drink. I kid you not. Rebecca mentioned something about a $2 cover, but the last time I heard anyone worry about $2 was in Better Off Dead. Hope you’re not that guy.
To the usual suspects: we should do dinner. Please say you will.