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Natalie Bergman, Divine Intervention

By Marc Zisman |

Natalie Bergman has written, performed, recorded and produced this first solo album almost all by herself. It is her way of setting out a vision that belongs to her alone.

Mercy is in a world of its own. Its twelve unique, spiritual songs, haunted by death and resurrection, are carried as much by her versatile voice as they are by her vintage sound, hailing from a bygone era. For a decade, Natalie Bergman had been singing with her brother Elliot in Wild Belle, an L.A.-based double-act which drew on pop, reggae, ska and psychedelia. But that part of her life fell apart when her father and stepmother were killed by a drunk driver. Having been brought up with a deep religious faith, Natalie decided to retire to an Abbey in New Mexico's Chama valley. It is there that Mercy was born in a clear act of catharsis. It is steeped in gospel music, which she regards as being the real source of rock'n'roll.

This is a unique, timeless work in which the artist finds her own way to praise music's sacred nature and restorative powers. “My faith and my music are crucial to my existence. I sing a lot about home on this record. My Paradiso, my Heaven. Believing in that place has been my greatest consolation. I had an urgency and desperation to know that my father was there. His sudden death was a whirling chaos that assaulted my mind. Gospel music gives me hope. It is the good news. It’s exemplary. It can bring you truth. It can keep you alive. This album provided me with my only hope for coming back to life myself.”

This return to the land of the living by way of gospel music is fascinating. It never falls into a churchy or preachy mode, going beyond faith. This album's sound and instrumentation owe as much to 1950s rock as they do to 1960s soul or to West African Highlife. Mercy is able to create the feeling of a musical style, but without ever being tethered to it. It should come as no surprise to learn that Natalie Bergman grew up in a house that resounded with the music of Dylan, Etta James, Pharoah Sanders, Lou Reed, Alton Ellis and Lucinda Williams. Nor is it a shock that she has been signed by a figure as wise as Jack White. His label, Third Man Records, is a tasteful establishment, and the artists on its roster are always well-versed in the music of the past... Death changed her life; her music can change yours: Natalie Bergman is a gift from heaven.


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