Brandi Carlile "The Firewatcher's Daughter"

Brandi Carlile and twin brothers Tim & Phil Henseroth create a roots record that highlights familial love.

Three is less a crowd and more a charm when it comes to the new album from Brandi Carlile. The Firewatcher’s Daughter highlights the three-part harmony and collaborative writing of Carlile and her long-time band members Tim and Phil Henseroth. The twins have always played a vital role in the singer’s career but their role is more obvious on this work. Four of the songs are written by one brother or the other, another four are co-written with Carlile and the brothers. The Henseroth’s vocals are also mixed higher in the mix, creating equanimity within the trio.

Carlile reputations as a roots rocker despite an early foray into commercial production on her debut album. Her last album, Bear Creek, pushed further in a rustic direction.  This latest effort mixes the acoustic roots with rockers; a few string-heightened ballads lean ever so slightly toward pop.  This is a less commercial but more honest record which might account for her leaving Columbia Records for Indie label ATO.

The Firewatcher’s Daughter’s production is raw, and uncluttered with production gadgetry, and is filled with snapping nylon strings slipping under fingers, and dirty feedback banging from the walls. Forget about overdubs, what you have here is three singers, a couple of microphones, and real-time harmony. The immediacy matches the attitude of the songs. Carlile is a master of relaying the pain of broken hearts and she continues to excavate those vulnerable emotions. She offers empathy to a struggling on “The Eye” an acoustic song that features gorgeous harmonies with the twins.

Thematically the album jumps between reflective moods and social critiques. Carlile is at her best when allowing her voice to do what it does best – wrap seductively around sparse instrumentation and sentimental emotions. Carlile recently married her long-time girlfriend and the couple are now raising a daughter. This informs the songs “I Belong To You,” “Wilder (We’re Chained)” and “Wherever Is Your Heart.” Carlile ends The Firewatcher’s Daughter with the Avett Brother song “Murder in the City. Despite its ominous title its message if one of love - and prioritizing the important things in life. It’s a neat summary of what is at the heart of this album – family.

Rosemary Welsch (The Afternoon Mix)