Give Up the Ghost
Nothing matches the passion of a young woman singer songwriter. Over the years, beginning with Joni Mitchell and followed by an avalanche of artists - Suzanne Vega, Rickie Lee Jones, Tracy Chapman, and Sarah McLachlan, to name a few - emerging female artists have poured their youthful angst, vulnerability, and unadulterated love and heartbreak into melancholy melodies and confessional lyrics. One of the latest in this lineage is 28 year old Brandi Carlile.
Carlile has already put together an impressive resume. Give Up the Ghost is her 3rd album, she’s released a number of self-produced E.P.s, and she’s toured as an opening act for Tori Amos, Ray Lamontagne, Indigo Girls, Chris Isaak, and The Fray. T Bone Burnett produced Carlile’s second album; thanks to his supervision the songs showcased Carlile’s raw emotional vocals while minimizing the overpowering production of her debut. This time out Jason Lader follows Burnett’s lead and produces with a light touch.
Carlile’s vocals should be the centerpiece of the record. She possesses a strong, crystalline voice that sails to the high notes while wringing out every bit of emotion possible. The music is mostly acoustic based, with lots of guitar, dobro, banjo, cello and a slightly tinny piano. A mark of Carlile’s talent is in the line-up of musicians who line up to work with her. Benmont Tench (Heartbreakers), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and studio journeyman Lenny Castro offer their services. However, the highpoint for Carlile is that two of her heroes appear on the album. Amy Ray of Indigo Girls sings backing vocals on the opening track “Looking Out.” Sir Elton John plays piano and duets with Carlile on the bop-rock number “Caroline.” His vocals are surprisingly deep and unrecognizable but the song is a heap of fun and the most upbeat track on the disc.
Carlile’s songs are almost universally about love and youthful yearning. This is the age of self-discovery and emotional upheaval. Carlile searches for love, loses love, pines for love… I think you get the idea. What makes this release worthwhile is the lovely melodies and Carlile’s voice. She is bound to be a new hero for many young women who relate to her themes.