Columbus, OH, Newport Music Hall, June 8, 2006

 

Written and photos by: Jason Perlman

 

When a young singer-songwriter begins her set with a Bob Dylan cover and ends it with a Johnny Cash cover, the songs sandwiched between had better have some substance and value. After all, for their time and place, Cash and Dylan were considered the best songwriters of their generation. So how can a 23-year-old rural Washingtonian woman pull it off? It would take a solid vocal octave, a penchant for the everyday and a set of brass you know whats. And Brandi Carlile brought all three to the Newport Music Hall as she opened for the British-style sensations, The Fray.

 

Although Carlile's music is not in step with the more pop-friendly The Fray, her Melissa Etheridge-like voice and meaningful lyrics were enough to win over some of the sold-out audience. But don't let that metaphor pigeonhole one into thinking Carlile is a clone. In fact, Carlile seems to have more of a range of music and stylings and even on her self-titled debut Columbia release, has seemed to challenge both her and listeners to delve into a variety of sounds and emotional moods.

 

Although Carlile may be known for her songs appearing on television shows such as Grey's Anatomy, that shouldn't let on that she is about the publicity. Carlile and her band are about as unassuming and unpretentious as any band to come out recently. Allowing her lyrics and vocal range do her talking, Carlile is able to pull off a song such as Throw It All Away, which has beautiful harmonies and layering and evokes a variety of sentiments and outlooks in its three-plus minutes.

As a live performer, it is easy to see how Carlile could get work in her native Seattle, as her openness and vulnerability would fit in at any coffee shop or chowder bar. But the fact that she sang back-up for an Elvis impersonator is even more impressive, especially because she took how to write layers and harmonies away from that experience, and which can be appreciated on just about every song off her record.

Her single, Fall Apart Again, may have the most radio credibility, but when her album is delved into, there are far more interesting and fascinating ditties. No one really wants to wish for a lack of success for someone, but Carlile's sound and stage presence are so suited for clubs and watering holes that it would be a shame to not be able to see her in that setting. Her strong, impassioned voice mixed with solid melodies behind her almost force non-smokers to pick up the habit and recovering drinkers to reach for one more beer. There is no doubt that Carlile has her flaws, as every artist does, but what she is trying to accomplish and become force her and her band into some of those blemishes. Maybe beginning a set with Times Are a Changing and ending with Folsom City Blues just asks for criticism, after all, almost no one can pull those songs off. But Carlile is pushing the envelope for herself and the audience, and there is never a flaw in that philosophy.

Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile