Natalie merchant and her band's greatest moment.
Jon Lusk 2007-07-20
In My Tribe was the second and best major-label album by this American folk rock group. The bell-like voice and song writing talents of Natalie Merchant were their main assets from 1982-93, after which she pursued a solo career. And even if there's nothing quite as immediate as ''Back O' The Moon'' the highlight of their previous album, The Wishing Chair, this is a more mature, consistent set, overall.
Though much has been made of the fact that their accessible, mostly mid-tempo songs often dealt with serious themes (such as child abuse on the opening ''What's The Matter Here'', they're hardly the only pop act to do so before or since. Their real legacy probably lies in the undeniable hummability of tunes such as the aforementioned, ''Hey Jack Kerouac'' and the catchy, stumbling rhythm and nursery rhyme simplicity of ''Like The Weather''.
''A Campfire Song'' features an unmistakeable vocal cameo from celebrity fan Michael Stipe of REM, and the chamber-folk calm of the closing ''Verdi Cries'' makes it clear Merchant herself was a fan of Kate Bush. Not everything else is essential or memorable, and it's a shame Robert Buck?s ringing mandolin isn't higher in the mix. The only song that hasn't dated well is ''My Sister Rose'', which over-indulges the band?s occasional penchant for Afro/Latin world music flavours and now sounds rather clunky and dated.
The choice of ''Peace Train'' as the only cover must have seemed inspired at the time, but when its author Cat Stephens (a.k.a. Yusuf Islam) declared his support for Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa on Salman Rushdie, Merchant insisted it be withdrawn from the US version of the album. The Cat is back and so is the song, so just enjoy it, OK?