Brandi Carlile’s New Album: A Review

Let me preface this by saying I love Brandi Carlile and the twins… and their music. Ever since I heard the album “The Story”, and subsequently “Bear Creek” (in my top 12 albums of all time I’d say). Next she came out with “Firewatchers Daughter” Which took a while but it grew on me. The Americana sound was played up a bit, and that indie feel of “Bear Creek” took a backseat. So I didn’t know what to expect on this new album. I was excited, though.

The album begins a little weak, with ‘Every Time I Hear That Song’ which makes us think of the past but how far we have come since then. Kind of a slow one, and it didn’t really catch my attention. I always like the first song of an album to be a show stopper. Or at least a real good upbeat vibe, we’ll say.

‘The Joke’ has some good strings and piano parts. Brandi really showcases her voice here. Raw and beautiful. Again however, a little slow and weak. I kept hoping for a stop in the slow and a BAM! Right into a fast song a la ‘The Story’. That didn’t happen, but Brandi’s vocals and the violin/string section make this song promising for the stage.

‘Hold Out Your Hand’ caught my attention right away. Quick vocals spoken in Johnny Cash fashion faster and faster until the song speeds up and takes you into some catchy ba da ba da ba da’s. It took a while to understand the theme of the song but I think they were just having fun. Especially when the march eloquence presents itself in the chorus.

The next song, ‘The Mother’ is one I have heard in concert maybe twice so I knew what to expect. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good, just that I knew it already and it is a sweet song, about her daughter that she and her wife had a few years ago. It is endearing and honest, and very authentic where Brandi opens up about sharing her life with this little creature that keeps her in awe. It’s just Brandi and her guitar, stripped down for the authentic and raw effect.

‘Whatever You Do’ went right past me except for the first line “If I don’t owe you a favor you don’t know me”. The rest was just too slow. Un-Prolific guitar in it’s basics, and a Brandi voice that neither tickles nor showers the listener with the doldrums; just ok. After a long verse the chorus comes in, and it seems it took forever to get there. It was a subtle challenge to verify its presence in the song though.

‘Fulton County Jane Doe’ reminded me of that “Everybody stop now what’s that sound, everybody look what’s goin’ down” with the bell tune throughout. A little More upbeat and shiny, a little more polished, this song goes down as a second favorite on the album. I had decided ‘Hold Out Your Hand’ would be my #1. It has a little more spirit to it.

‘Sugartooth’ is next and it, frankly, bores me. I am so so sorry to have to say that. But it is not catchy, the lyrics are nothing inspiring, and once it’s done I can’t remember a single part of it. I actually tried to recall this one and had managed to get “slave to a sugartooth” in my head after much recollection (mostly because I ached for chocolate at the time). Your plain jane song here.

‘Most of All’ in all of it’s glory starts slow, but with a ballad-y intention. Brandi’s voice shines here in this one… but again after the song is over I don’t remember it. Is the guitar lick in this one the same as all the previous songs? I can hear the brothers singing on this one – they seemed mostly absent on this album which is odd because they try to stick together in writing and vocalizing. This one reminds me of ‘Whatever You Do’ in the way that it just seems like ‘a song’ to me, and I could easily skip it rather than repeat it.

I like how ‘Harder to Forgive’ starts with the drums. The lyrics are poetry here, and you can tell the song is building up to something more upbeat than others. I like this one because it goes in a direction that I like. The lyrics you can recall after the song is over, and this one might get stuck in your head. She tells a genuine story about forgiveness in this tale, and the song is cohesive and listenable.

‘Party of One’ starts off with a piano, and a sad sounding Brandi. A soft, soft voice singing about loneliness and anger. A slow song to close out the album. The end of the song just sort of peters out… I said “Wait, what?”

To re-cap and summarize, this album was more poetic and brilliant lyric-wise, but the tempo and music itself just wasn’t there. Perhaps I compare her albums too much with “Bear Creek” because every single song on that album is amazing. This is by no means terrible, and with many more listens it will grow on me. But these are my first impressions. I still love you Brandi, even though you’re a little more tired these days.


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