Natalie Looks Back

“Going back to your roots” is an expression which veteran followers of folk music often preach. Don’t copy off a copy – go to the source. Roger McGuinn is so adamant about saving old songs that he seldom writes new ones anymore. Now it’s Natalie Merchant‘s turn. The House Carpenter’s Daughter is a testament to tradition. Some of the songs are well known – The Wayfaring Stranger and The House Carpenter, for example. Some aren’t. Weeping Pilgrim is an 18th century Protestant hymn. Natalie found it in a tattered old hymnal; otherwise it might never have been heard again. Owensboro describes how poorly transient mine workers were treated in rural Kentucky. Fiddler Judy Hyman and old time banjoist Richie Stearns (both of The Horse Flies) help paint the scenes. Outside of Merchant’s poor diction (it’s hard to understand the words unless you’re following along) this is a refreshing collection of traditional song in a classy package – the song descriptions and the old photographs provide a thoughtful touch.

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