You might think you know Natalie Merchant, but you really don't. Whether you're a diehard fan who's been hanging on every syllable uttered by the Jamestown, New York, singer since she was in 10,000 Maniacs in the early '80s or an unrepentant cynic who finds her unique vocal style to be mannered, you probably weren't ready for her strangest and most ambitious project yet, the 2010 album Leave Your Sleep. In making what was ostensibly a collection of children's music, she took the words and nursery rhymes of mostly dead, white, male British and American poets and infused them with an inventive and impressively varied set of musical shadings that ranged from traditional Chinese folk instrumentation to jaunty reggae, bluesy dirges and grand, orchestral soundscapes. At tonight's acoustic set, Merchant will blend selections from Leave Your Sleep with her solo recordings, backed by bassist Jesse Murphy and guitarists Erik Della Penna and Gabriel Gordon.
Wed., May 9, 9 p.m., 2012