By Jack Sharkey, March 2, 2018


Front to Back Album Review: Brandi Carlile - By the Way, I Forgive You

  • Released: February 16, 2018
  • Label: Low Country Sound / Elektra
  • Producer: Dave Cobb, Shooter Jennings


3.5 Play Buttons

3.5 out of Five Play Buttons


Brandi Carlile hit hard with her 2007 album The Story, but since then her commercial success hasn’t matched that album's success. The Firewatcher’s Daughter was an okay album but it was scattered with little focus. By the Way, I Forgive You recaptures the spark and focus of The Story, albeit through the eyes of an older, wearier but somewhat wiser adult. Carlile is an adult and she sings about adult things so if you came to this album for pump-your-fists frat party anthems or seen-it-before awkward dance sessions disguised as a musical piece, move on, there’s nothing to here hear.


Carlile’s voice was born to sing country, and at first blush she sounds like just another country ingenue, but she’s not anything approachingBrandi Carlile - By the Way, I Forgive You cowgirl dresses with boots – thank goodness there are still singers like her. Given the sorry state of commercial country music, please don’t make the mistake of cubby-holing this record as ‘Country” before giving  it a listen. It's not easily defined in any one genre, because it's filled with good music and emotion. Carlile bears a striking resemblance to Karen Carpenter, another contralto with amazing control of her instrument, but that's where the similarities end: Carlile isn’t a country singer-songwriter but she’s no pop star either. And again – thank goodness. Her vibrato is slow and deliberate which might be a bit off-putting to listeners of current pop music, but her’s is a finely-tuned instrument under complete control.


You’ll hear some Indigo Girls (with whom she has contributed before) in this album (Harder to Forgive) but there’s also a lot of post-Beatles 70s UK pop in the arrangements (think Elton’s Rock of the Westies but legitimate), especially in Hold Out Your Hand, Whatever You Do and Harder to Forgive (again) – those vocals at the end are chill-inducing.


If radio was still a thing, there are easily four singles on this set, The Mother and Fulton County Jane Doe would make everyone’s Top Songs of Summer 2018 without much argument. By the Way I Forgive You gets three and a half Play Buttons because occasionally the tracks work a little too hard resulting in over-wrought and scattered performances that fall just short of their intention. Even though the hook is nice, I could've gone without Hold Out Your Hand. I was just kind of annoyed at the conclusion of the track, and I think Carlile and her production team might have been a little annoyed too. 


On a technical note, I’m not a big fan of subwoofers for 2.0 music but the production on this album is worth checking out just for the LF equalization. It’s sweet, natural and fits the music perfectly.


Listened on Tidal via Roon streamed to LS50W.