14 Songs, 50 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

As a young artist, Brandi Carlile grew noticeably more mature and confident with each new album. Now 30, she's found her niche. 2012's Bear Creek primarily captures her acoustic side. Producer Trina Shoemaker fully understands Carlile's strengths, and from the opening gallop of "Hard Way Home" the sound leaves a comfortable space for her vocals to soar. The mild rockabilly tint of "Raise Hell" remains a modest buzz in the background where even the electric guitars that take the solo are kept in the background to better emphasize Carlile's husky blues vocals. Elements of folk, bluegrass, country, blues, pop, even gospel (try the chorus of voices tracing Carlile for "Save Part of Yourself") present themselves in part, while the results are always a combination of several elements ensuring something new. The piano ballad "That Wasn't Me" builds in power convincingly. Carlile has grown into a mature artist who has complete control over her talents and isn't afraid to try something new while remaining true to tradition.

EDITORS’ NOTES

As a young artist, Brandi Carlile grew noticeably more mature and confident with each new album. Now 30, she's found her niche. 2012's Bear Creek primarily captures her acoustic side. Producer Trina Shoemaker fully understands Carlile's strengths, and from the opening gallop of "Hard Way Home" the sound leaves a comfortable space for her vocals to soar. The mild rockabilly tint of "Raise Hell" remains a modest buzz in the background where even the electric guitars that take the solo are kept in the background to better emphasize Carlile's husky blues vocals. Elements of folk, bluegrass, country, blues, pop, even gospel (try the chorus of voices tracing Carlile for "Save Part of Yourself") present themselves in part, while the results are always a combination of several elements ensuring something new. The piano ballad "That Wasn't Me" builds in power convincingly. Carlile has grown into a mature artist who has complete control over her talents and isn't afraid to try something new while remaining true to tradition.

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Ratings and Reviews

4.8 out of 5
654 Ratings

654 Ratings

thesoutherndutch ,

Beautiful Songbird

No matter where you fall in your discovery of her music, you will become a faithful follower. Her lyrics find a way into your soul and make a home there. You want to share her with the world but keep her all to yourself all at the same time. Brandi is treasure but she is also as real as they come. If you have a heart, she will grab it and hug it. Listen.

Cyrrona ,

Brandi Carlile: Mountaintop Maestro

Musical queen of emotion Brandi Carlile has treated listeners to raw, sentiment-charged folk-rock for nearly a decade. Her fourth major record, however, demonstrates impressive personal and artistic maturation. While the grizzlier half of the album title might suggest otherwise, Bear Creek effortlessly washes over listeners with all the rustic comfort of a secluded mountain brook.

With its tightly-knit Hanseroth twin harmonies, effervescent string selections and cozy fingerpicking, the album exudes genuine warmth that past releases often kept buried beneath commendably honest—though frequently blue—introspection. Carlile’s distinctive heartbreak still cuts through the rosiness on a few tracks: swift guitar-plucking and convincing melancholy drive the mournful “100” along, while “A Promise to Keep” finds the songwriter lamenting a lost lover amidst a tenderly-spun acoustic backdrop. Bear Creek’s sorrow, however, is less heart-hollowing than previous Carlile outings (see “That Year,” “Fall Apart Again,” and “My Song”), with many of its downswings carrying silver lining in the form of emotional reconciliation or lighter arrangements.

Bear Creek’s intrinsic flame also dances and shifts with the song listing. Carlile commands a wildfire on the blazingly defiant “Raise Hell,” a gritty rebel of a tune that accentuates refrains with fierce vocal whip-cracks, while the comparatively subdued charms of “Heart’s Content” temper the spark back towards something resembling graceful candlelight. “Hard Way Home,” the album’s kickoff number, arguably encapsulates the spirit of the record best. The track—a contemporary folk gem adorned with tremendously catchy campfire claps and a refreshing platter of Carlile life philosophy—houses a refined acceptance, an optimistic resolve, and a whole lot of fun. While lyrical themes naturally fluctuate over the course of the album, this undeniably playful undertone transcends the entire package. Every song subtly conveys a sense that the band thoroughly enjoys performing each second of these tracks, and the good spirits are contagious.

The musical breadth exhibited here also merits a compliment, as Bear Creek contains the broadest swath of instrumental stylings Brandi Carlile and her crew have ever undertaken. The trio singes the curtains marking genre boundaries by mixing rock (“100”), country (“Keep Your Heart Young”) and gospel (“That Wasn’t Me”) in with her traditional folk. Every single step may not fall perfectly in line with the rest—the gospel tint of “That Wasn’t Me” actually clouds Carlile’s trademark emphatic vocals in places and leaves the track’s chorus relatively flat—but the general results from this experimentation are overwhelmingly successful. The dazzling, elegant closer, “Just Kids,” musically distinguishes itself from all prior work; its inclusion here reminds listeners that an artist as generative and thoughtful as Carlile always has more to offer. With Bear Creek’s consistently satisfying blend of style and substance, Brandi Carlile and friends can count on listeners eagerly awaiting that next offering.

COKeekers ,

Amazing!

On first listen there are songs that I have connected with (100, Hard Way Home) but what is most interesting to me is there is so much substance to the lyrics that I believe in time I will return to the album and find new layers to songs I had not connected with before. As I grow the record will grow. I think this is what makes an album stand the test of time and I think "Bear Creek" will!

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