Although I am a fan of the suffle mode, when I listen to an album for the first time, I like doing it in the order that’s been published. I guess that it’s been chosen following a deep reflection, thinking of a progression of intensity, and I like preserving that. Al least the first time.
However, there are very few works that pass this first test. Immediately, we identify our favorite songs and the ones we skip directly. This section has been created with the intention of introducing albums that, in my opinion, not only pass the test, but also deserve to be listened to from beginning to end without skipping any track.
First of all, I must explain that I will base this recommendations I my mere opinion. There will be classic albums, more modern ones, different genres, and some you may not agree with, but that I consider worthy of an opportunity, if you haven’t listened to them yet. Likewise, I’ll be very pleased to read you suggestions. Maybe some can end up in one of this posts.
Bear Creek (Brandi Carlile, 2012)
I launch this section with a relatively new album: it was released less than four years ago and it is Brandi Carlile’s penultimate one. Curiously enough, Carlile received her first Grammy nomination for her following (and, for the moment, latest) work: The Firewatcher’s Daughter, a very good album, too, but not as good as the one that I bring today, in my opinion.
Bear Creek (named after the studio where it was recorded) was published in2012, and it was Brandi Carlile’s fourth studio album. Brandi Carlile is one of the artists I admire most. But I will explain that another day. Today, we’re here to write about the album.
Probably, any of her previous works would deserve to appear in this section, but I like this one specially. Maybe because it was the first one she released when I already knew her well [I discovered her shortly before she released her previous album –Give Up The Ghost (2009)]. But also because real signs of maturity can be found in this one, both in the sound and in the composition.
Without losing simplicity, Bear Creek has a wealthy instrumentation (banjo, mandolin, ukelele, etc.) that she begun to explore in Give Up The Ghost, but, at the same time, she takes advantage of simple resources like claps or a lonely kick drum. She takes a step further with the electric guitars, which they had used shyly before, and which they will free definitely in The Firewatcher’s daughter. She takes a very rocker turn, but folk is still the axis that holds all the music up.
Frequently, changes may bring deviations that supporters don’t like. But in this case, we better talk about evolution. And it seems that she’s on the right track: enriching her music without giving the roots up .
That’s the length of the album (0:56, exactly). It starts with some chorus that sound like a train whistle, and it closes with a film soundtrack like instrumentation. In between, references to the most classic US folk, touches of blues, some details of the purest Brandi Carlile, and a “That Wasn’t Me” that shows that she needs nothing but a piano and her voice to thrill.
I leave you here the full album (in Spotify), so you just click play and enjoy. Below, I write a short comment on every song (in order, of course), and I add the corresponding video (the comments may include details that don’t appear in the videos, if the audio doesn’t belong to the album recording)
1. “Hard Way Home”
The album couldn’t star better: a spirited song that invites to hit the ground to follow the rhythm. The beginning chorus remind of a train whistle. Then a maraca that sounds like the clattering of a steam engine, and a background mandolin.
2. “Raise Hell”
A country blues song full of strength to keep on hit the ground hard and to start clapping. The second track and Brandi already lays her rockiest streak on the table: electric guitar and some angry moan that, on the other hand, we are already used to (and we like it). In the video, you as soon as your hear her you will be amazed. What a strong song! And what a powerful voice!
3. “Save Part of Yourself”
It keeps the essence of previous works. Brandi Carlile has the virtue to make songs she can easily be identified for, but not being repetitive.
It captivates from the very beginning with that first guitar and mandolin picking that later goes with the melody of the voice. A very catching melody that transmits very good vibes, partly thanks to the chorus.
4. “That Wasn’t Me”
This theme, which was the first single of the album, is signed by The Twins (Tim and Phil Hanseroth). Apparently, the song is based in the addiction and recovery of one of Carlile’s friends. No doubt that the strength that it sheds, only with a piano and Carlile’s voice transmits perfectly that healing and reconciliation progress.
The piano carries most of the instrumental weight, and the voice is brilliant. A melody that catches, ins spite of its simplicity (or because of it). Simple, but with a lot of strength. We can notice the influence of Elton John, who took part in Brandi’s previous studio work (Give Up The Ghost).
5. ”Keep Your Heart Young”
This song, which talks about the desire to keep a young spirit in spite of the test of time and the acquired experience, sheds the purest essence of the american folk. It reminds of the most classic Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger or Bob Dylan. Perfect to get in good spirits.
Another one that speaks about a lost love (the same as “Save Part Of Yourself”). This one includes a cello, what is very usual in Brandi Carlile’s songs, and what we will find in the following song too. The electric guitar is more restrained this time, along the same lines as the previous albums.
7. “A Promise to Keep”
We find the usual Brandi Carlile again (that will remain during the next songs).
8. “I’ll Still Be There”
The electric guitars are more daring in this theme, with strange effects.
9. “What Did I Ever Come Here For”
At this stage, little more to say. Even so, we can highlight the interesting presence of the string instruments, and the two-voices passages.
10. “Heart’s Content”
A song that almost seems a lullaby and that transmits a lot of calm. As a curiosity, we can mention the reference to Johnny Cash and June Carter almost in the beginning.
11. “Rise Again”
A song with a lot of rage. A melancholic atmosphere, but with a very strong chorus. Probably, the best chorus in the album.
12. “In the Morrow”
A very easy country melody. It enters very easily and it lightens the end of the album. If you turn the music off after this theme, I won’t keep it in mind (as long as it doesn’t become a habit).
13. “Just Kids”
Probably the only dispensable one. Mostly because of the drop in the rhythm, but not because of its quality. In fact, if you don’t listen to it once in a while, you will miss a very good song. Perfect for listening to it with the headphones on, late in the evening, when nobody disturbs and you want to get away a little bit.
The intro and the end seem almost part of a movie soundtrack. The doubled voces create a quite psychedelic atmosphere, with the help from the rest of the instrumentation and the very rhythm of the song. An in crescendo guided by the snare that always flows into a calm lake and that takes us again to a peaceful atmosphere in which we float, nearly listening to the water drops and with the only company of Bear Creek’s frogs.
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