Natalie Merchant’s Keep Your Courage, first album of new songs in nearly a decade out now

Article Contributed by Sacks and Company | Published on Friday, April 14, 2023

Keep Your Courage, the new album from Natalie Merchant, is out now on Nonesuch Records—listen here. Produced by Merchant, the new LP is the artist’s ninth solo studio album, and the first of all-new material since 2014’s self-titled record. Keep Your Courage has already received critical acclaim, with the Associated Press saying it “has some of Merchant’s best songwriting, with melodies that veer from Gaelic to Middle Eastern, delving into horn-driven soul, melancholy ballads, pure pop and defiant sisterhood anthems,” among others.

Through its ten songs, Merchant explores themes of love and passion as essential to the human experience: “For the Greeks, when the spirit of love descended, it was seen as a kind of assault; you would become powerless against an all-consuming, sweet madness,” she says. “Amazingly, humans still crave it, in spite of the perils.”
The record’s lead single “Big Girls” is out now, joining the previously released “Tower of Babel” and “Come On, Aphrodite” featuring Abena Koomson-Davis (Resistance Revival Chorus).

Keep Your Courage features additional contributions from Celtic folk group Lúnasa, Syrian virtuoso clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and jazz trombonist Steve Davis. There are lush orchestrations by seven composers throughout, including: Gabriel Kahane, Stephen Barber, Colin Jacobsen, and Megan Gould. The new record comprises nine original songs by Merchant as well as an interpretation of “Hunting the Wren” by Ian Lynch of the Irish band Lankum. The vinyl LP edition includes four bonus tracks from earlier albums, previously unreleased on vinyl.

Merchant writes in her album’s liner notes: “The songs contained within this album were written and recorded during the pandemic ... a period of great flux and fear on every level ... but this is not an album about the coronavirus or the chaos it caused. For the most part, this is an album about the human heart.” She continues, “The word ‘courage’ has its root in the Latin word for heart, cor, and we see it over and over in many languages: le coeur, il cuore, o coração, el corazón. This is a song cycle that maps the journey of a courageous heart.”

In celebration of the new music, Merchant embarks on an extensive headlining tour that kicks off tonight in Poughkeepsie, NY. Merchant will perform on stages across the world, including several appearances with local symphony orchestras. (Full schedule below.)

Over her forty-year career, Natalie Merchant has attained a place among America’s most respected recording artists. She has earned a reputation for being a songwriter of quality and a captivating stage performer and has distinguished herself as a social justice and environmental activist. Merchant began her musical career as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the pop music band 10,000 Maniacs and released six albums—including one platinum, two double-platinum, and one triple-platinum records—with the group: The Wishing Chair (1985), In My Tribe (1987), Blind Man's Zoo (1989), Hope Chest (1990), Our Time in Eden (1992), and 10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged (1993). Merchant left the band in 1994 and has subsequently released nine albums as a solo artist with combined sales of seven million copies: Tigerlily (1995), Ophelia (1998), Natalie Merchant Live (1999), Motherland (2001), The House Carpenter’s Daughter (2003), Leave Your Sleep (2010), Natalie Merchant (2014), Paradise Is There (2015), and Butterfly (2017).

Merchant has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Billy Bragg, Gavin Bryars, David Byrne, The Chieftains, Cowboy Junkies, Philip Glass, Kronos Quartet, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mavis Staples, REM, and Wilco. She served on the New York State Council on the Arts from 2007–2011 at the appointment of Governor Elliot Spitzer and was recently appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center by New York State Senator and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Merchant’s awards include: The Library Lion Award from the New York Public Library (2011), The American Society of Authors Composers & Publishers (ASCAP) Champion Award (2019), and The John Lennon Real Love Award (2019). More information about Merchant’s career and philanthropic work may be found here.

Natalie Merchant Tour—U.S.

April 14 & 15— Poughkeepsie, NY— Bardavon, 1869 Opera House
April 18— Pittsburgh, PA— Byham Theater
April 19— Charlottesville, VA— Paramount Theater
April 21—Philadelphia, PA—Kimmel Cultural Campus
April 22—Hershey, PA—The Hershey Theatre
April 24—Greenville, SC—Peace Center Concert Hall
April 26—Clearwater, FL—Ruth Eckerd Hall
April 27—Fort Lauderdale, FL—with The South Florida Symphony Orchestra
Au-Rene Theater - Broward Center for the Performing Arts**
April 28—St. Augustine, FL—The Saint Augustine Amphitheatre
April 30—Atlanta, GA—with The Atlanta Symphony at Atlanta Symphony Hall**†
May 9—Portland, ME—Merrill Auditorium
May 10—Boston, MA—Emerson Colonial Theatre†
May 11—Boston, MA—Emerson Colonial Theatre
May 13—Cleveland, OH—Keybank State Theatre
May 14—Cincinnati, OH—Taft Theatre
May 16—Carmel, IN—The Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts†
May 17—Ann Arbor, MI—Michigan Theater
May 19—Chicago, IL—Chicago Theatre
May 20—Milwaukee, WI—The Pabst Theater
June 2–3—New York, NY—Lincoln Center for the
Performing Arts—Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center**
June 25—Newark, NJ—New Jersey Performing Arts Center**
June 28—Providence, RI—Veterans Memorial Auditorium**
June 30—Washington, DC—John F. Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts**
July 1—Washington, DC—John F. Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts**
July 8—Chautauqua, NY—Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater**
September 20—Spokane, WA—Martin Woldson Theatre at The Fox
September 22—Seattle, WA—Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery
September 23—Portland, OR—Keller Auditorium
September 26—San Francisco, CA—The Masonic
September 27—Saratoga, CA—The Mountain Winery
September 29—San Diego, CA—Humphrey’s†
September 30—Los Angeles, CA—Walt Disney Concert Hall

Natalie Merchant Tour—Europe

November 2—London, UK—London Palladium
November 3—London, UK—London Palladium
November 5—Glasgow, UK—Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
November 6—Manchester, UK—O2 Apollo Manchester
November 8—Dublin, IE—3Olympia
November 11—Bath, UK—The Forum
November 13—Amsterdam, NL—Carré Theatre
November 14—Brussels, BE—Cirque Royal
**With symphony orchestra
†Sold Out

Keep Your Courage Tracklist

1. Big Girls
2. Come on, Aphrodite
3. Sister Tilly
4. Narcissus
5. Hunting the Wren
6. Guardian Angel
7. Eye of the Storm
8. Tower of Babel
9. Song of Himself
10. The Feast of Saint Valentine

Bonus Content

11. Spring and Fall: To a Young Child (from 2010’s Leave Your Sleep)
12. Butterfly (from 2017’s Butterfly)
13. Giving up Everything (from 2014’s Natalie Merchant)
14. Frozen Charlotte (from 2017’s Butterfly; original version on 1998’s Ophelia)