There aren’t many artists that pull at the heart strings like Brandi Carlile. Her effortless storytelling could melt the coldest of hearts, with a voice that sounds as if it were plucked from another time, and an ease of style that seems to sway with the wind. Her toe dipping in the pools of folk/indie/country/rock is fantastically executed but as always, irrelevant. Her new record The Firewatcher’s Daughter has all of these elements, but is too almost too beautiful to be definitively categorised. The album is designed to wash over you, a cathartic 12 song track listing that embraces love and change, and Brandi has had plenty of both.
The Brandi Carlile of old captured the tormented heart better than most, and perhaps more eloquently than anyone else. Understated but always clever, her lyrics are never anything less than perfect, but have always seemed so sad. What Can I Say, in my opinion one of her greatest songs, says it best – How many rules can I make? / How many lies can I fake? / How many roads can I turn / to find me a place where the bridge hasn’t burned? Lyrics full of loss and hard choices, coupled with the feeling of being stuck, it’s no surprise The Firewatcher’s Daughter feels so different. Since her last record in 2012, Brandi has fallen in love, become a wife, a mother and freed herself form the shackles of a major record label – and her music is all the better for it.
Opening with Wherever Is Your Heart, the familiarity is immediate, with an edge that is quietly confident, as if we are only just being let in on a secret. If that doesn’t suck you in, The Eye or Wilder (We’re Chained) will, brilliantly written with gorgeous layered harmonies from The Hanseroth Twins, landing somewhere in the realm of Fleetwood Mac or Imogen Heap. If you are a fan of the more melancholy there is still plenty of that, with I Belong To You one of the loveliest of her career, both in writing and performance, fitting nicely alongside the sensational Hiding My Heart. Heroes And Songs sounds like an instant classic, as if transported straight from Woodstock while Beginning To Feel The Years demonstrates the full circle Brandi has travelled, arriving in a place of happiness and stability – a far cry from the emotional turmoil of old – You carry me along with you / Keep my spirit strong you do / Maybe I was meant to be / under your lock and key / The hard times that I had / Really don’t seem all that bad / Yesterday is long ago and far away.
On The Firewatcher’s Daughter all the Brandi signatures are there – stunning songwriting, incredible vocals and a beautiful varieties of genre influences, but this is an untethered version – simplifying the process and embracing imperfection. And in that, it is perfect.