Keep Your Courage is Natalie Merchant’s tenth solo studio album and the first of new material since her 2014 self-titled record. An eclectic album, produced by Merchant, it features lush orchestrations throughout, two duets sung with vocalist Abena Koomson-Davis of 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 nine original songs by Merchant and an interpretation of a song by Ian Lynch of the Irish band Lankum.
Nonesuch Records released Natalie Merchant’s Keep Your Courage, her tenth 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.
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.”
Over her forty-year career Natalie Merchant has attained a place among America’s most respected recording artists. She has earned a reputation for being a songwriter of quality and a captivating stage performer and has distinguished herself as a social justice and environmental activist. 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. She served on the New York State Council on the Arts from 2007 to 2011 at the appointment of Governor Elliot Spitzer and was recently appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center by New York State Senator and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Merchant’s awards include: The Library Lion Award from the New York Public Library (2011), The American Society of Authors Composers & Publishers (ASCAP) Champion Award, and The John Lennon Real Love Award.