Leave Your Sleep

As a member of 10,000 Maniacs and a solo artist, Natalie Merchant showed that her best traits were her refined taste and fetching, earthy voice. This handsome, long-brewing two-CD/book project flaunts both, setting poems and nursery rhymes to folksy tunes with a U.N. roster of A-list players who mine Irish, Chinese, African-American, European classical and other traditions. The music is beautiful and the vibe mellow, though Merchant gets Dixieland-brassy with Wynton Marsalis and tries some I-Threes-style reggae. But it's like that My Morning Jacket song about the sexy librarian: You wish she'd let her hair down more.

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