Brandi Carlile

5 albums, 40 tracks

Alternative/Indie Rock


"Brandi Carlile"

Mar 06, 2019

Americana is boundless when listening to Carlile’s By The Way, I Forgive You

Written by @taylor / 3 mins read

For a first time listener who has truly enjoyed Brandi Carlile’s work here, it is hard to pick a favorite aspect of her music tendencies, be them the emotional belting out of folk chops, her slick arrangements, or her constantly surprising notes that thrill from out of leftfield. Already having tackled a variety of styles on years of past albums, By The Way, I Forgive You has an Americana focus which you will want to mine again and again for additional layers of magic that you may have missed whilst caught up in its already robust sound.

Originality proves key to making old arrangements sound fresh

On “Harder To Forgive”, the speed of a Dolly Parton’s stormy break up ballads comes rambling into mind, and on “Sugartooth”, the subject of drug addiction is treated in a surprisingly upbeat, overarching way. On an empathetic note, a harmonizing chorus supports jangly guitar work and bluesed-out vocals courtesy of Brandi Carlile, as she howls out with lamentations for a suicide victim in “Fulton County Jane Doe”. The ballads are swift on some numbers, and slowed down on others, such as “The Joke”, its tempo languid so that the emphasis on Carlile’s ghostly vibrato and great powerful violin progressions are loud and clear.

Artists such as Carlile don’t seem to believe in throwaway tracks

Each song is quality here, and each is great in different ways, although with all the melodies present, they are played according to a live, analog style, respectful of the way music was performed in the distant past. No track stands out as redundant or superfluous. “The Mother” could be said to mix aspects of both Bob Dylan’s and Neil Young’s work – with Carlile’s voice possessing that same slightly nasal delivery here. On “Whatever You Do”, her delivery is quite different, and the song jerks between each sequence animated by fantastic acoustic passages.

Rather than play safe, Carlile reaches for extremes where it feels right

Many of these songs stretch farther than how they open, to the benefit of the listener. The quick Dylan delivery exists on some tracks, but Bonnie Raitt also comes to mind – Brandi Carlile can belt it out with the best of them. Yet Carlile seems to take weirder approaches, taking risks like ones P.J. Harvey would when it counts, but in a way that never outshines the old fashioned rules of phrasing and playing. It all boils down to the hyper-awareness great artists have about their strengths, and on By The Way, I Forgive You, Carlile produces some truly memorable songwriting that satisfies convention while pushing certain limits.

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