Brandi Carlile (Bonus Track Version)
There’s a Far Western note of plaintiveness running through the tracks of Brandi Carlile’s 2006 self-titled debut, and critics deservedly gushed over this Washington State-born artist’s ache-wracked vocals and sparse, heart-tugging songwriting. Fundamentally, her first album is a country release — but Brandi Carlile’s stark production and often bleak tone is as far from the genre’s current mainstream as Nashville is from Spokane. As a singer, Carlile invites comparisons with a young Bonnie Raitt, delivering her lyrics with a bluesy throb accented with keening falsetto touches. Tracks like “What Can I Say” (written by co-producer Phil Hanseroth), “In My Own Eyes” and “Fall Apart Again” evoke late-night barroom reveries and lonesome drives across empty landscapes, and the wounded bravado of “Happy” and quiet desolation of “Tragedy” (the latter a torchy ballad recalling k.d. laing’s early work) are especially haunting. Carlile strikes a more aggressive stance on “Closer to You,” riding atop a galloping guitar line. Worth special mention is her darkly reflective cover of Elton John’s “Sixty Years On,” included as a bonus track.