Natalie Merchant's latest foray into South Florida comes at a particularly opportune time. Currently, she's riding the release of Leave Your Sleep, an ambitious opus that finds her turning the lyrics, lullabies, and nursery rhymes of classic literary authors into a varied hybrid of pop, folk, jazz, zydeco, reggae, and classical melodies. The sprawling two-disc set also allowed her to collaborate with a dazzling cast of musicians — Wynton Marsalis, the Klezmatics, the New York Philharmonic, and Medeski, Martin & Wood among them — while defying preconceived notions about any genre-specific sounds in the process.
Merchant's pliable vocals have always crossed stylistic parameters, but anyone who still remembers her as the spinning hippie chick in 10,000 Maniacs might find her musical grab bag a bit overwhelming. With songs blending child-like charm and a reverence for timeless traditions, as well as her tireless efforts on behalf of various social causes, Merchant continues to endear herself to her legions. She'll likely glean from all phases of that prodigious career by sampling both her solo catalog and the best of her Maniacs' material.