I’m forgoing today’s Random Weekend selection to close out my short series on Brandi Carlile. At first I figured I’d given her most recent album enough exposure on the blog (four songs before this one), but it didn’t feel right to leave it out.
Released in 2018, By the Way, I Forgive You was the record that finally brought Carlile the widespread recognition she’s deserved since her debut. She won a Grammy for Best Americana Album, and competed for Album, Song and Record of the Year.
Brandi Carlile’s fourth album, 2015’s The Firewatcher’s Daughter, sounds like a reaction to its low-key predecessor. Where Bear Creek leaned into acoustic folk and country, Firewatcher finds Carlile and company rocking out. On about half of its tracks, anyway.
Having been lucky enough to see Carlile live right before the pandemic, I can attest that this album comes closer to capturing her live sound than any of its predecessors. Indeed, Carlile says the band didn’t record any demos for the record, instead choosing to capture the performances for the first time during the final recording sessions.
Brandi Carlile released her fourth album, Bear Creek, in 2012. The record is named after Bear Creek Studio in Washington state, a farmhouse recording studio where artists of all sorts have cut albums. Carlile has been based in Washington for two decades, so recording there didn’t require much of a commute.
The album’s sound is appropriate to its rural setting. This is the most country-sounding album in Carlile’s output to date, though it does take a couple of detours into foot-stomping blues rock and, on its final track, something close to New Age.
Following the success of The Story, Brandi Carlile was poised for breakout success, and her next album — 2009’s Give Up the Ghost — seemed like just the vehicle for it.
Produced by the legendary Rick Rubin, Give Up the Ghost serves up another batch of resonant folk pop, but sounds even better than her first two records. Carlile sounds looser and freer, and the songs are alternately sadder and more fun. She even duets with her idol, Elton John, on a song that sounds like an alt-country ‘Crocodile Rock.’
Brandi Carlile’s first album earned critical raves and landed her supporting roles on tour with big-name artists. It also placed three songs on Grey’s Anatomy, giving her a boost in name recognition as she set about recording her second album. T Bone Burnett took the reins as producer.
The Story, released in 2009, went on to sell 500,000 copies and remains Carlile’s top-selling release to date. The collection of poignant country rock tracks is similar to her debut in style and tone but the quality of both the sound and the songs feels like it’s been turned up a notch.