Brandi Carlile – ‘In These Silent Days’ Album Review

Photo Credit: Neil Krug

Brandi Carlile, an artist who’s generally considered a folkie but also shows leanings towards both country and rock, has been impressing an increasingly large following ever since her 2005 debut. Her seventh studio album In These Silent Days is another powerful and heartfelt collection of original songs that will no doubt continue her winning streak. Opening cut “Right on Time” lives up to its name by offering an intimate but grandiose preview of what’s to come. The album’s other “time” song, “This Time Tomorrow” is a classic stripped-down folk song but makes very good use of layered vocals. 

“Broken Horses” is classic country rock with lyrics that are both direct and metaphorical (“Only broken horses know how to run”). Artists like Carlile are usually assumed to be writing only (or mostly) autobiographically, even though all of the tracks were written with others (specifically twin brothers Tim and Paul Hanseroth, her longtime bandmates with whom she’s been collaborating for virtually her entire recording career). This is also the case with “Letter to the Past”, even if some of the metaphors don’t make complete sense upon first listen (“You’re a stone wall // in a room full of rubber bands // You’re a pillar of belief // Still hiding your empty hands”). 

However, another mostly-acoustic ballad, “Stay Gentle” is an advisory song seemingly addressed at a loved one (“Stay gentle, keep the eyes of a child // And wear your heart on your sleeve”) in the vein of Bob Dylan’s classic “Forever Young.” On the subject of songs on which communication between generations might be the main concern, right in time for Halloween comes “Mama Werewolf”, a kinetic guitar song which uses the classic horror trope as another metaphor for change, and generations needing to somehow keep each other in check (“If I cause you pain, my own sweet child // Won’t you promise me you’ll be the one // The silver bullet in the gun”). 

Apart from Dylan, Joni Mitchell is another obvious – but welcome – influence on “You and Me on the Rock” (which also features the band Lucius), a jangly guitar song which hails Mitchell’s classic “Big Yellow Taxi” and similar songs of the early ’70s (the song switching to a minor key for the bridge is another plus). “Sinners, Saints and Fools” is as diverse in its parts as the groups suggested by the title, as the song features a string section throughout, along with underlying rock guitars, the obligatory hint of country twang, all leading up to a heavy metal-ish outro which is fully welcome despite seemingly coming from nowhere (or possibly because of it). Easily the “hardest” song of the record, it successfully provides the album’s climax before the mood is brought back down to earth by the closer. 

That album closer is the piano-balled “Throwing Good After Bad”, the title of which proves ironic since, with this cut, the album can officially be declared to be all good and no bad. Carlile’s voice is perfectly suited for everything she writes, while the production throughout the record finds the perfect balance. Silence – even metaphorical – has rarely made more meaningful noise when it does on In These Silent Days. 

Written by: Richard John Cummins

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