I have a soft spot for alt-country. Likely due to its close proximity to the singer-songwriter genre. I am also a sucker for great lyricism, and as a rule, artists in alt-country, Americana, whatever you want to label it, usually make of point of writing decent songs.
So, is a Brandi Carlile a shoe in? Of course, but not just because of her style. No, Carlile has an impressive catalog of music that receives more critical acclaim with every release.
So Carlile is back with The Firewatchers Daughter, the first on her new label, ATO Records, and the most accomplished album of her career.
One of the finest tracks of the album is opener “Wherever is Your Heart.” Carlile’s voice is so powerful in its honesty. It has such great emotion and energy that is genuine whether she is whispering or screaming.
Showcasing Carlile’s counterpart, the extremely talented Hanseroth Brothers (commonly referred to as “the twins”), is “The Eye.” The three part harmonies as smooth as bourbon. Lyrically deep, with minimal instrumentation, the track is an exceptional piece of work.
In line with her high energy live shows is “The Things I Regret.” The track is a foot stomping jam with a raspy sound on the vocal. It’s a fun track that comes in just in time before the album gets stuck in the slower tempos. The energy keeps up with one of the best tracks on the LP, “Mainstream Kid.” It is a blues howl of a track. We are digging Carlile’s wail and love the change ups. The energy on the chorus is both fast and raw.
The Firewatchers Daughter was recorded a unique way. With minimal rehearsals, the band recorded many of the tracks on the first take. On most tracks the formula certainly adds to the feel of each song. Some end abruptly, beautifully unfinished, and some feel unpolished, exposed and raw. The only time this formula takes away is on “Blood, Muscle, Skin & Bone.” The track has a rock vibe but feels like its missing something. The song is not bad, it just feels underdeveloped.
Perhaps the finest track on the LP is “I Belong to You.” This heartfelt love song is rooted in traditional country. Carlile sings, “If I had all my yesterdays, I would give them all to you.” The song pours out pure emotion and really takes off musically at the end.
The Firewatcher’s Daughter is a solid album, beautifully crafted and delivered. The Hanseroth Brothers continue to be such a prominent player in Carlile’s sound that perhaps it’s time them to in the band title. Carlile herself only grows her appeal with each release, and this LP is sure to satisfy her longtime fans and gain plenty of new followers, ourselves included.
ATO Records continue to produce quality wax. Pressed on two LP’s the album comes in a full color gatefold. Pick up a copy from your local independent record store or directly from Brandi Carlile’s website.