Tuesday, May 6, 2014

New Natalie Merchant song about Louise Brooks

I've been a longtime fan of Natalie Merchant, both for her work as a solo artist and for her earlier recordings with 10,000 Maniacs. That's why I was thrilled to learn that today, May 6th, Nonesuch Records will release Natalie Merchant's sixth solo album. This self-titled and self produced collection of 10 new and original songs is her first offering in 13 years. And what's more, it features a song "about" Louise Brooks. The song is titled "Lulu."

Merchant describes her writing style as "empathetic." The songwriter may as well have been talking about Louise Brooks when she described her new album as one that reflects on "love gained and lost, regret, denial, surrender, greed, destructiveness, defeat, and occasional triumph." A recent biographical statement reads 
Her musical approach mirrors the interplay between her alternately inward and outward-looking lyrics. Deeply personal moments are juxtaposed with more overt social commentary, though the lines are often intriguingly blurred like on “Lulu,” a look at silent screen icon Louise Brooks. “By writing ‘Lulu’, I tried to compress her colossal life into a few verses of a song. She was such an intelligent, sensuous woman, and intuitive artist born years before her time. She was hedonistic and unapologetic, headstrong and impulsive. She rose to dizzy heights of international stardom and fell into a life of hand to mouth subsistence and seclusion only to be rediscovered and revived again before her death.
According to an May 5th article about Merchant in the Wall Street Journal, "She also found inspiration in the lives of other women—one track, "Lulu," was written after she read the 1982 memoir Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks, a dancer and early film star who made the bob haircut famous in the 1920s.

"She was born so far ahead of her time," Ms. Merchant said. "She was sensual and hedonistic and ended up alcoholic and living on the Lower East Side in a small apartment. Everyone remembers Charlie Chaplin, but she's been forgotten. I think it illustrates the temporal nature of fame."

According to earlier articles I've come across on the web, Merchant has played the song a few times in concert, and it has been well received. I've heard it online, and I like what I've heard. The song's lyrics includes a number of references to incidents in Brooks' life.

Merchant has announced a summer tour in support of her new album. Among the stops is the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 25. Noteably, Louise Brooks danced on the stage of that theater as a member of the Denishawn Dance company, on October 2, 1922 and March 12, 1923 and December 29, 1923 (two performances).

I hope to include "Lulu" and the instrumental track that proceeds it, "Lulu (an introduction)," on RadioLulu, once I've gotten my copy of Merchant's new album. More about Merchant and her music may be found on her website.

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