Brandi Carlile – By The Way, I Forgive You (Album Review)

Beyond the number that represents stages of youth, maturity, phases and opinions, age is ultimately the acceptance of one’s life as a whole. Memories slip into murky corners of the mind for awhile, but with each new milestone comes resuscitation and correspondence. It is in such a concurrence that a refined peace begins to bloom. Releasing By The Way, I Forgive You on Friday, February 16, 2018 via Low Country Sound (Elektra Records), Brandi Carlile absolves the ghosts of her past with anthems of forgiveness and grace.

Navigating extraordinary talent and an intense spotlight of success, the Washington native lets nothing jade her soulful Americana-Folk Rock. Rising to become a household name with 2007’s The Story, Carlile has since filled her discography with five full-length and multiple live albums.

The singer has fearlessly embarked on an unplugged tour (quite literally: no amps, mics or other electronics), is a strong advocate for women’s health and equality rights, and maintainer of honesty’s beautifully harsh sting in everything she creates. The road to By The Way, I Forgive You marks more than just a sixth album: working with famed producers Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings as well as the late, legendary Paul Buckmaster (David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”), Carlile intended on leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of truth.

Tranquil plucking of acoustic guitar gently introduces “The Mother” with Carlile’s husky vocals in tow. The track surges in emotional currency as Carlile depicts the elation and battles of parenthood through a honeyed sieve of reality: “the first things that she took from me was selfishness and sleep/she broke a thousand heirlooms I was never meant to keep.” Raw vocal inflections climb a balancing scale of powerful range, always in meticulous control. Carlile’s depiction of an identity that only comes with becoming a parent (“they still enjoy their evenings with the skeptics and the wine”) transforms into a powerful manifesto: “they can keep their treasure/and their ties to the machine/because I am the mother of Evangeline.

“Sugartooth” attests Carlile’s renowned storytelling ability with a hymn for those imprisoned by addiction. Her voice illuminates dark subject matter with gentle compassion and precise enunciation of a tale she needs the world to hear. Lifting into the hook, the docile intro is shed for coarse, ragged, fervent vocals. Descending into a soft organ end, listeners are finally able to discern the old pipes and revel in the overlooked pillar of importance.

The melancholy reflections in “Most of All” dissolve fans into the roots a parent bestows: kindness, forgiveness, strength, love. Carlile’s nostalgia moves through wistful vocal breaks and teeming harmonies, to “remember what comes back/when you give away your love.” Her ease of leading a melody to pivotal summit is original, rare, and natural talent at its finest.

While the entirety of By The Way, I Forgive You is full of notable tracks, “Hold Out Your Hand” (an empowering motivator) and “The Joke” (a vocal pièce de résistance) are impossible to ignore. Carlile’s life spills into all ten tracks representing humility, vulnerability, conflict and triumph. By The Way, I Forgive You breaks the stigma surrounding the other F-word and releases Carlile as only forgiveness’ purpose serves. Catch Brandi Carlile on her North American tour beginning in March. Until then, CrypticRock gives By The Way, I Forgive You 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase By The Way, I Forgive You:
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