Nonesuch Records will release Natalie Merchant’s Keep Your Courage, her ninth solo studio album and first of new material since 2014’s self-titled record, on April 14, 2023. An eclectic album, produced by Merchant, it features two duets sung with vocalist Abena Koomson-Davis (Resistance Revival Chorus), contributions from the Celtic folk group Lúnasa and Syrian virtuoso clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, and horn arrangements by jazz trombonist Steve Davis. There are lush orchestrations throughout by seven composers including: Gabriel Kahane, Stephen Barber, Colin Jacobson, and Megan Gould. Keep Your Courage 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 of Keep Your Courage includes four bonus tracks from earlier albums, previously unreleased on vinyl.
In celebration of the release, Merchant will embark upon a US tour this spring, going into the fall (schedule below); European dates will be announced shortly.
Merchant writes in her album’s liner notes, “The songs contained within this album were written and recorded during the global pandemic that began in the winter of 2019 and is in its fifth wave as I write, in the autumn of 2022. It has been, and continues to be, a period of great flux and fear on every level: global, national, communal, familial, personal. 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.”
Merchant began her musical career as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the pop music band 10,000 Maniacs and released 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 group 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.