Review : Brandi Carlile - Bear Creek
PopmattersIt takes a particular kind of musical craftsman to be able to work within the confines of the country/pop/rock genre whilst simultaneously tweaking each new album to sound stylistically different without betraying the “rules” of the genre. Brandi Carlile has managed this sometimes impossibly difficult feat with her previous three efforts, even though her last, Give Up the Ghost, was just too dark and thick with hard-edged amelodic tendencies to really get behind. Her latest, Bear Creek is a light hearted auditory experience loaded with heavy content. Rife with sentiments of belonging and “coming-of-age”, Bear Creek manages to encapsulate the complexities of aging with the nostalgia and longing of, well, summer camp. Although this is never made explicit, there is an aura of regret and past introspection permeating throughout the album.
Bear Creek opens with the adorably accessible “Hard Way Home” where Carlile reminisces on the difficult chosen path she’s taken throughout her youth. On it she sings: “Oooh, follow my tracks / See all the times I should have turned back / Oooh, I wept alone / I know what it means to be on my own / Oooh, the things I have known / Looks like I’m taking the hard way home / Oooh, the seeds I’ve sown / Taking the hard way home.” A wonderfully light take on the sorrow trope—a welcome change from the sometimes difficult to swallow darkness of Carlile’s previous record Give Up The Ghost. From the siren of the camp grounds that rings out in “Hard Way Home” there is the sense that Brandi has made a deliberate choice to keep things light, without betraying her grassroots, and almost Tin Pan Alley mixed with some early gospel, style. She’s channeling early Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn on tracks like “Raise Hell”, or the endearing “Keep Your Heart Young”, while giving other tracks a more modern pop/rock twist, such as “Just Kids” or the album highlight “100”.
Bear Creek has all the gusto and playfulness that is reminiscent of youth with all the fears and 20/20 hindsight that comes with age. Nothing is taken too seriously that it breeches into muddled melodrama, but never once does Carlile belittle her source material—never does she oversimplify the intricacies that can course through many overly hormonal and confused youth. The entire album is a delicate journey of humility, love, and the lovelorn, of embarrassment and the desire to rise above your circumstances. Take, for instance, the beautifully written “100”, where she sings: “When I’m blowin’ out the candles / And when people start to sing / I will always cross my fingers tight / I remember everything / But I always make my wishes / For the same thing every time / If I live to be one hundred / If I ever it getting right.” Plagued by the vanity of youth, the track is a heartbreaking cry to be remembered and loved despite all the mistakes you’ve made.
It’s a wonder how such a young voice has managed to infuse such soul and depth into every line delivery. Take for instance the Fleetwood Mac inspired “Save Part of Yourself” where she sings: “I remember you and me / Lost and young dumb and free / Unaware of years to come / Just a whisper in the dark / On the pavement in the park / You taught me how to love someone / Save part of yourself for me / Won’t you save part of yourself for me”. With a quivering inflection in her voice and swelling orchestral strings, the break in the tune is heartbreaking just long enough to allow a rush of hand claps and “Oooo’s” from the chorus....full text
AfterellenIt's hard to believe Brandi Carlile isn't from the South. Her songs can't help but have that country-way about them: The storytelling narratives, the themes getting through hard times and missing someone so much it threatens to consume you all together — even her speaking voice has a bit of a twang. But mostly it's her charm. She is warm and friendly, like she'd give you a ride home if she saw you in the rain or offer you a cup of tea as soon as you walked into her house. That genuine charisma is why so many fans have become smitten with her over the course of career. Well, that and her voice.
After Brandi signed with Columbia Records and released her second album The Story in 2007 she became well-known in circles of music-aficionados for her brand of yodel-pop-folk that she took on the road with the likes of The Indigo Girls. As her songs were used in ad campaigns and Grey's Anatomy, more of the world grew accustomed to her way of making contemporary music that is almost decade-less: A song that doesn't reflect any specific time or event, but could remain relevant at any time in your life or hers, or whomever you think about when you hear it. That's what makes Brandi Carlile such a rarity in music, and why she can play with a symphony orchestra backing her up or in front of a crowd that came to see Dave Matthews and attendees leave as fans if they weren't already.
Since Brandi's 2009 album Give Up the Ghost, a lot has happened. The singer/songwriter turned 30. She broke up with her long-time partner. She secluded herself with her songwriting partners, Tim and Phil Hanseroth, and producer Trina Shoemaker at a recording studio where they created Bear Creek, which is out today. Bear Creek (named after the Pacific Northwest studio it was recorded at) is just as timeless as the rest of Brandi's albums, with tracks like "Keep Your Heart Young" and "Hard Way Home" that already sound like campfire classics. Then there's "That Wasn't Me," her first single which has an accompanying video starring Kris Kristofferson. It's a heart-wrenching piano-driven tune about losing oneself and, in turn, losing everyone and everything else....full text
AllmusicNamed in honor of the converted turn-of-the-century Washington barn where it was recorded, Brandi Carlile's fourth studio outing, the rough and tumble, sweet and soulful Bear Creek, is as fiery as it is bucolic. Carlile's wonderfully expressive voice is as tailor-made for country as it is for roots rock, and the 13 cuts on Bear Creek lean heavily on the former, striking a nice balance between the nuanced twang of Alison Krauss and the bluesy cockiness of Bonnie Raitt, especially on the spirited, boot-stomping opener "Hard Way Home," the sweet and steady "Keep Your Heart Young," and the gospel-kissed howler "Raise Hell." The notion of diminishing youth (Carlile turned 30 during the making of the album) plays a pivotal role on Bear Creek, and contributes to some of its finest moments. Both "A Promise to Keep," with its soft cadence, deft fingerpicking, and stoic refrain of "The hill I'm walking up is getting good and steep," and the lush and languid closer "Just Kids" manage to bask in the sepia glow of nostalgia without disappearing into the past, which is an attribute that Carlile, with her old-school melodic sense and genuine flair for Roy Orbison/Patsy Cline melodrama, displayed with 2007's blistering future American Idol standard "The Story." Four albums in, Carlile has honed her distinctly retro brand of Northwest Americana down to science, and Bear Creek feels both easy and immediate, which is usually what happens when talented artists finally figure out who they are, and that heartache, failure, defiance, and confidence can all go to the dance together....full text
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