's latest effort, The Story
, aptly picks up where her self-titled debut left off. While the former is no less narrative and contemplative than the latter, this time around, Carlile and her band entrusted their songs to the vintage instruments and impeccable taste of legendary producer T Bone Burnett. The result is a remarkably memorable record that exemplifies both Carlile's musicianship and natural poetics.
Direct to Tape
When Brandi Carlile
set out to make a second record, her label suggested she team up with legendary producer T Bone Burnett
(Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch
). Together, Carlile, Burnett, twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth, and the rest of the band, headed out to British Columbia to hole up for two weeks. When they emerged from the studio after this short session, what they had was one of the most authentic Americana records of the year.
What's bound to be a focus of many reviews is the fact that Carlile and crew recorded directly to tape this time around, locking them into opportunities for pleasant surprises like "Josephine," which came out in one take, and human mistakes like the crack in Carlile's voice as she goes for the torch note in the title track.
"So Many Stories ..."
Brandi Carlile Live in Concert in Seattle, WA© Kim Ruehl, licensed to About.com
The title track from The Story
, penned by bassist Phil Hanseroth, is not only the most appropriate song to stand for the rest of the record (its lyric, "so many stories of where I've been and how I got to where I am," easily sums up the purpose of the other tunes), it's also the first song that stands out upon listening to the disc.
What makes the record so great, though, is that, upon a second listen, maybe the stand-out track is "Downpour," or Carlile's personal classic "Turpentine," which she wrote for her brother while still a teenager. The third time through, suddenly the all-acoustic "Cannonball" swings to the fore, with harmonies so strong and gut-wrenching, it's no surprise they were lent to the disc by the Indigo Girls.
Indeed, like any classic record, the songs that stand out here really depend on the listener. In fact, each tune on the disc is its own story about where Carlile has been, and each is equally, hauntingly relatable.
The Bottom Line
It's still very early in Brandi Carlile's career; but where many artists tend to falter with their sophomore albums, Brandi Carlile
has only returned stronger, tighter, and more important than before. Her voice is huge, and her skills as a songwriter are equally as poignant. What stands out about The Story
is that, like any good story, it may leave you spellbound, surprised, amused, and introspective.
- The Story