Album Review – Brandi Carlile’s ‘The Firewatcher’s Daughter’

Brandi Carlile

When it comes to Brandi Carlile’s music, it’s impossible to put a genre label on it. You’ll hear influences from almost every genre, from country to rock to folk to blues. Carlile once said this about genres to CMT:

“I mean, I couldn’t be less interested in becoming genre-specific in any way,” she says with a sense of conviction that suggests she’s pondered this at length. “If I could be anything to the music industry, it would just be sort of a human eraser of lines between genres, just because it’s so damaging — ‘they’re on that team, I’m on this team.’ ‘I don’t like country.’ ‘I don’t like rap.’

So going into her new album The Firewatcher’s Daughter I prepared myself for anything. Yet I still wasn’t prepared for all the different influences she incorporated into it. She has cited Patsy Cline and Elton John as two of her biggest inspirations, something I can definitely hear her in music. The producers for this album are twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth, who also join her on vocals on the track “The Eye.” They’re a very tight-knit group and with them all starting families right as they were making this album, it made for a unique environment. It definitely influences several songs on this album, giving it more heart. So with all of that said does this album impress? Yes, it absolutely does!

The album starts with “Wherever Is Your Heart,” a fairly fast paced song about home being where the heart is. Carlile shows a lot of great passion throughout the song, especially in the bridge to give it a real punch. The acoustic guitar gives the song a good flow and makes it easy to like. Carlile’s powerful voice punctuates through on “The Eye.” Her powerful voice combined with the backing vocals of the twins, it makes for great harmony. It’s a song that compares heartache and being in the eye of a hurricane. The song is really well written and intriguing to the ear.

The folk-influenced song “The Things I Reject” is about how when you wear your heart on your sleeve and it gets broke, you’ll end up remembering everything you want to forget. It’s a heartbreak song that brilliantly captures the feelings we all feel when going through the end of a relationship and how you just can’t shake the bad memories. “Mainstream Kid” is loud and in your face. This rock country song is full of attitude and will capture your attention right upon first listen. While I feel Carlile gets a little shout-y at times, it does get the attitude of this song across well to listeners. The instrumentation is phenomenal, especially in the latter half of the song.

I found it easy to get lost in “Beginning To Feel The Years.” By lost I mean get wrapped up in the song and that’s a good thing. It pulls you in quite easily, with the softness of the instrumentation and Carlile’s voice. The song is about forgetting about the past and appreciating the love you have now. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Carlile’s voice soars again in “Wilder (We’re Chained).” It’s a song about love and life, with the song appropriately beginning with the birth of a baby. I love the incorporation of sound effects in the song to set the mood, from the sound of trickling water at the beginning to the sounds of birds chirping in other parts.

“Blood Muscle Skin & Bone” has a similar vibe to “Mainstream Kid” with it’s upbeat, rock country sound. It’s a simple love song that’s catchy and easy to sing along with. The instrumentation really stands out on this song more so than the vocals, which is an anomaly on this album because of Carlile’s dynamic voice. “I Belong To You” is another song that deals with love and throughout it the woman struggles to show how she feels for her love. By the end she realizes she belongs to her love and the song takes a more upbeat tempo to indicate the mood of the song going from confused to happy. It’s a song that really relies on the tempo and mood throughout rather than the instrumentation and lyrics. The next song, “Alibi,” is one of the more country songs on the album, but of course it borrows influences from other genres too. This is a song about a woman begging for someone to be her alibi so she doesn’t take a fall for all she has done. It’s not serious though, as it’s more of a fun outlaw theme, rather than a serious outlaw theme.

The best song on the entire album is hands-down “The Stranger At My Door.” It’s a dark song that blends folk, rock and country to create a cool sound. Carlile actually wrote this song while staring into a bonfire, which probably explains why it’s so fiery, yet enthralling. The end of this song crashes into a rock and roll frenzy that will leave the listener remembering this song for a while.  This is followed by a song with the exact opposite vibe in “Heroes And Songs,” which is smooth and easy-going. While Carlile’s voice is smooth and impressive, this song just feels like a transition between “Stranger At My Door” and the final song on the album.

Speaking of the final song, Carlile covers the Avett Brothers’ “Murder In The City.” Carlile adapts it to her own life, referencing her wife and daughter. She makes it her own, adjusting the lyrics to make it a self-reflection song. The song itself is about a person insisting their loved ones to not avenge their death if they were to be murdered, but instead to remember the love they shared. The gospel influence gives this song an almost haunting air about it, which is a nice touch. Carlile’s voice is perfect and really caps the album off in a great way.

The Firewatcher’s Daughter is an album you’ll need to hear multiple times to fully grasp, but trust me it’s well worth it. Carlile’s dynamic voice and the cornucopia of genres mixed together make for one hell of an album. While Music Row continues to push cookie cutter female artists who produce music that panders to the latest fad, there are talented female artists outside that bubble like Carlile making innovative music. Some people will call this album a rock album. Others will say it’s alternative or a country album. Does it really matter though? This is just great music that any music fan can appreciate. I highly recommend checking out The Firewatcher’s Daughter. Brandi Carlile absolutely delivers.

Grade: 9.5/10