New Music Reviews

Natalie Merchant’s Sister Tilly: A Love Song to Badass Feminists

Natalie Merchant has not put out new music for close to nine years, but thankfully we now her her new record Keep Your Courage. More well known for her work with 10,000 Maniacs and her amazing solo record Tigerlily, Merchant harkens back to those early 10,000 Maniac days with lush tracks expertly written. She has done it all really. She had an amazing career with the band, become a mother, had huge solo hits, did work with Billy Bragg and Wilco, been an artist in residence at a pre-school…what else is left? Well, if Keep Your Courage is any sign, there is an abundance great music left for Merchant.

The track Sister Tilly is an epic and sprawling 7 minute plus homage to strong women. There are close to three songs in this one track. We kick off with gentle acoustics, woodwinds and strings as we ease into a warm and lush folky cut. For how sparse the track is musically, each instrument does a metric tonne of work in the first 3 minutes to create such a warm atmosphere. At about the 4ish minute mark we hit the percussion and we quickly move to 4/4 time in a portion of the song that has real Hey Jack Kerouac vibes. This move to a more 90s art house alt rock works well and then quickly eases into the song’s coda, which is reminiscent of our first lush three minutes. Breaking up the track like this gives such a long song great pace and keeps the listener’s interest throughout the entire song.

Merchant has said that the track is a love song for all the women in her mother’s generation. You can see Merchant’s love and respect for these strong women as she laments their passing in the first half of the track. She sings about different aspects of these women that she admired, but will no longer experience. The love she has for them is what fuels her emotional pain and longing for them. However, that move to 4/4 time also makes a lyrical break in the song where her love for them transitions from lament to celebration. She sings glowingly of their feminism and pride as she celebrates their lives.

The song Sister Tilly has everything I love in a Natalie Merchant song…amazing writing, a folk indie energy, feminist themes and most importantly…her amazing vocal. Merchant’s vocal sounds a bit seasoned, but you still get that lovely low vocal with such a unique delivery. She’s still got it. Not only will Natalie Merchant fans love this track, but any lover of women singer songwriters will adore this track. It is great to see her back with such power.

Listen to Sister Tilly

3 comments on “Natalie Merchant’s Sister Tilly: A Love Song to Badass Feminists

  1. cnymike

    Agree 100%. And to think that she nearly lost her singing voice, but far from it. This is a woderful return of such a gifted vocalist.


  2. cnymike

    Agreed 100%. And to think she nearly lost her singing voice. But far from it, This is a wonderful return of a gifted singer. Her emotion is revealed through her singing. Love her vocal quality.


  3. Daniel Law

    At first listen I didn’t think much however it quickly amazed and captured me… this is quite possibly one of the best tracks in my music library… it shines with brilliance each time I hear it … so powerful and soothing… Thank you for so many gifts you gave me Miss Merchant….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: