The act of prayer involves entering into a space where the world falls away and where the person praying attempts to become one, at least momentarily, with the Other. Prayer can be a trance-like state, a state of deep dreaming about and longing for union with the Other.
From “Talk to the Lord,” the rhythmically clicking and swirling track that opens her new album, Mercy, to the haunting, moving, and atmospheric final track, “Last Farewell,” Natalie Bergman opens a space for prayer, a hymn of praise, and a celebration of meditation and its transformative affects.
The first track of her solo debut (she was previously part of the brother-sister duo Wild Belle), “Talk to the Lord,” opens in a sparse sonic landscape with Bergman’s bright vocals floating over a click-clacking percussion track, circling slowly higher until she’s joined by the Larry Landfair Singers in an acclamation of praise.
B3 organ strains ride spryly along beneath the call-and-response plea for sweet Jesus to “Shine Your Light on Me” in the song of that title, while swirling harmonies float along a reggae rhythm in the joyous “I Will Praise You.” Gentle guitar strums provide the somber melodic bed on which Bergman lays her questions about death and eternity and the power of prayer in “Home at Last,” while the jangly psychedelia of “Paint the Rain” ponders the transience of life and love, encouraging us to “love all the way” since, like the rain, life can be gone in an instant.
Mercy plumbs deep pain just as it celebrates walking through the darkness in order to emerge in the light. On many songs, Bergman whispers her prayers in a chanting style that rises to a gospel shout, and her soulful vocals enter our souls and inhabit us as we seek our own ways of praying or meditating about our relationships with the world and others.