Posts Tagged ‘Brandi Carlile’

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Forgiveness can feel like a foreign concept within this year’s endless unspoolings of shock, rage and cynicism. And yet, there was Brandi Carlile — the era’s most powerful purveyor of that much-abused gift to hungry audiences, the rock anthem ,making a whole album about what it means to practice it. By The Way, I Forgive You begins with a gentle ballad grounded in Carlile’s close harmonies with her main collaborators, Tim and Phil Hanseroth; it contains the album’s title phrase. It’s a story of rejection (for Carlile, by a minister who refused to baptize her when she came out as a teen) with the moral that moving on only works when you declare the weight of the damage done. The album ends with a Joni Mitchell-inspired piano ballad about a near-disastrous fight Carlile had with her wife, the song itself the peace offering Carlile offers, in the lyrics: “Girl, you can slam the door behind you, it ain’t ever gonna close.” Between these bookmarks Carlile shares stories of the wrongs people do each other and what it really takes to enact forgiveness: resilience and recognition of wrongdoing, tempered by the determination to live fully, even with the wounds.

Carlile’s huge, warm voice, with its vibrato ending each phrase as if turning into a memory, works perfectly within the album’s grand, expressive settings, untethered to genre, massive but intimate. Whether sharing the story of “Sugartooth,” an addict and the people who love him even as he slips out of their safe hold, or assuring the bullied children of “The Joke” that they will walk in the sunlight of their own truth soon, or realizing that her father’s advice to bear no malice doesn’t contradict her mother’s about knowing when to fight, Carlile rises to meet its imperatives. Each song asks how she, how any of us, can face the ugliness life creates and still hold out a hand — toward the dark, so that it might possibly transform; toward those we love and those we fear, so that, as one prayer of forgiveness once said, we all may be delivered.

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Brandi Carlile, By The Way, I Forgive You

The songs on Brandi Carlile’s By The Way, I Forgive You have a lot of love in them. Carlile isn’t writing silly little love songs, though; these are songs with depth and empathy that unpack weighty topics like the current political climate, immigrant and refugee rights, the opioid epidemic, family dynamics and the idea that forgiveness is inherently radical. What is also radical is the singing, harmonies and emotional depth Carlile — and her longtime bandmates, Phil and Tim Hanseroth  achieve on these songs.

A tireless activist, Carlile cares deeply about addressing social injustices and the role art and music play in effecting change. But she’s never overbearing; instead, her songwriting allows you to enjoy the complexities of her narratives. It’s music with a message, and during messed-up, troubled times like these, music with meaning music that has something to say, that inspires, motivates, comforts and provides hope resonates so much more for me. That’s something we could all use more of along with, by the way, forgiveness.

Brandi Carlile  is back with her best album since The Story, and maybe her best yet. By the Way, I Forgive You features cover art by one of the Avett brothers, photography by Pete Souza , string arrangements by the late, legendary Paul Buckmaster, and production by Shooter Jennings and country producer du jour Dave Cobb. That Carlile remains the center of gravity in this star-studded universe is a testament to her considerable talents. Here she ably navigates a batch of songs that range from folk, country and blues to symphonic pop and rock pieces that would sound at home on a Broadway stage. No matter the backdrop, Carlile sounds completely in control.

From the album “By The Way, I Forgive You” available now:

Texas’s favorite alt-country troublemakers returned in 2017 with their finest album in over a decade, anchored by this rip-snorting meditation on sin and redemption. “I got a soul that’s good and flawed,” Rhett Miller sings, but “I’m good with God.” It’s a witty deconstruction of male entitlement, although the greatest touch here is casting Brandi Carlile as a particularly vengeful Yahweh. It’s a role she was born to play.