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The House Carpenter's Daughter

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The House Carpenter's Daughter album cover
Sally Ann
Which Side Are You On?
Crazy Man Michael
Diver Boy
Weeping Pilgrim
Soldier, Soldier
Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow
House Carpenter
Down On Penny's Farm
Poor Wayfaring Stranger
Album Information

Total Tracks: 11   Total Length: 50:38

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Natalie Merchant's folk: hits and misses


I should reveal my bias: I am into folk songs, especially irish originating ones such as House Carpenter. I was a bit disappointed by the sparse banjo accompaniment, skilled though it was, in House Carpenter and one of my all time favorite american folk tunes, Wayfaring Stranger. Her vocals in H.C. are excellent, as always. I did not like her version of Wayfaring Stranger which was different than the ones I have heard. Ms. Merchant does better with Crazy Man Michael, recorded in the 60's by Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention; another great female vocalist worth checking out. I really loved the song Weeping Pilgrim,: it was mellow--I confess to being a \"chick tune\" lover: broken hearts, cheesy musical hooks, harmonies (like on Weeping Pilgrim). I am less inclined towards the fast, kick up your heels bluegrass/traditional style. Buy songs, not the whole album.

They Say All Music Guide

Striving to preserve the kinds of songs that “teach us about what we know in our hearts,” Natalie Merchant presents here 11 songs of traditional and contemporary folk music. Merchant’s handpicked song choices run the gamut of the 20th century, with seven traditional tunes and four covers. The covers are an eclectic mix: the Waterboys-esque Horseflies song “Sally Ann” (ex-Horseflies Judy Hyman and Richie Stearns provide violin and banjo throughout the album), Florence Reece’s coalminer hymn “Which Side Are You On?,” Fairport Convention’s gothic parable “Crazy Man Michael,” and the Carter Family’s love-lost weeper “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow.” From the track listing, one would expect a somber blend of acoustic instruments and dreamy vocals, but Merchant and company kick out the folk jams more often than not, and Merchant’s bright production and energetic arrangements keep the pace lively. As befits the preservational nature of the project, Merchant’s annotated liner notes give rhyme and reason to each selection. Reading about the harrowing genesis of “Which Side Are You On?” adds a wealth of poignancy and power to its message. But that’s not to suggest that The House Carpenter’s Daughter is an overly academic work, as the material varies enough in theme, tone, and rhythm as much as any of Merchant’s preceding solo endeavors. Indeed it’s actually quite refreshing to hear Merchant’s voice consistently wrapped around a bold pedal steel guitar, a weeping fiddle, a rolling banjo, and gentle accordion undertones. Those weary of the traditional nature of the album needn’t worry much, as rock textures hover around many a corner, percolating violently on “Diver Boy” before exploding fully on the humorous jumping-rope song “Soldier, Soldier.” At turns slow, hazy, and beautiful and at other turns bounding with folk hoedowns, The House Carpenter’s Daughter is a delightful exploration of Merchant’s folk inspirations. Whether a listener is a folk newcomer or a die-hard folkie, or even a Merchant fanatic or not, this is an album bursting with delights. It proves Merchant’s liner-notes theories about the power of folk music again and again. – Tim DiGravina

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