CD Review – Brandi Carlile “Bear Creek”
It’d be nice if Brandi Carlile would go ahead and jump the fence into country territory instead of straddling it. Based on her performance on her latest, Bear Creek, she’s a hell of a lot easier to listen to than 99 percent of the all hat and no cattle wannabe cowgurrls drawling and howling their way through what passes for country music these days.
It’s hard to believe Carlile came out of the Seattle coffeehouse circuit. Although she purrs along sweetly on her folkier tunes, when she wants to get down into country, her vocal chords sound like they’ve been aged in some good whiskey then sanded down over decades in smoky bars. Her rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” on the compilation We Walk The Line: A Celebration of the Songs Of Johnny Cash sounds like she just staggered out of the front door of that establishment looking for a drink and a good fistfight.
Carlile brings that same rough edge to her work on Bear Creek.“That Wasn’t Me” should easily crossover, equally at home on arena stages or smoky honky-tonks. “Keep Your Heart Young” is everything a country song should be, three chords and the truth, a nostalgic look back at childhood pleasures that you should keep close to your heart throughout life. The key here is that Carlile’s message is nostalgic without being trite or smarmy.
The only problem here is that the theme seems inconsistent. There’s a bit too much pop mixed in. With her talent and a bit more loosening of the reins, she could flat out gallop through the pasture, lassoing a corral full of country fans without out losing her grip on the Americana market.