Written by: Shawn Brown
Well folks, Rome is literally still burning.
So, so much burning.
This leaves we few (we happy few) with a choice to make.
While at the moment, both joy and despair are equally defendable choices, let’s bravely lean into some serious JOY!
Fuck yeah, let’s choose the joy, people!
The type of unadulterated joy of which I speak of can only come from dropping the needle on that one track that you’ve been ‘chomping at the bit’ to rock with all damn day!
In those sweetest of moments, there’s nothing left to do but sail away in the sea of endorphins (or cheese, if perchance Primus has landed on your turntable).
For me and (Lord-willing), many of you, Brandi Carlile is an aggressive source of just this type of joy. Her talents are so singular, that it’s almost unfathomable that she would not have achieved all that she has to this point. That said, the music business is a veritable shitshow which often precludes the greats from achieving the lofty heights they so deserve.
Thankfully, Brandi’s slow burn of a career has positioned her as one of the most beloved artists of our time. High-fives all around!
It’s also super reassuring, considering she never has really ever fit into any particular genre. She wasn’t easy for the “suits” to sell, which makes her success even more sweet.
The Ravendale, Washington native hit the Seattle coffeehouse scene with such a vengeance in the early 2000’s that she was already signed by Columbia Records in 2004. Fast forward to 2019, where her record By the Way, I Forgive You garnered her six Grammy nominations and three wins. She also delivered a rendition of her lead single “The Joke” during the telecast that was so monumentally knee buckling that the reverberations are still being felt to this day. Words evade me in trying to describe what she does here:
While her voice often receives the lion’s share of the critical focus (which is totally fair, considering it’s an unclassifiable marvel), her development as an artist is indistinguishable from her musical partnership with twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth. Lovingly referred to by Brandi and her faithful as simply “The Twins,” the Hanseroth boys have been her ‘ride or die’ compatriots since the very beginning. And while both are incredible musicians, it’s the trio’s well earned harmonies that are so deeply transcendent that mere words again fail. It’s also very important to note that the Twins are principal songwriters as well. In fact, “The Story” (which continues to be one of Brandi’s crown jewels and biggest hits) was penned by Phil Hanseroth.
Can we talk about “The Story” for a hot sec, by the way? Holy fuck! It’s a perfect song, impeccably produced by T-Bone Burnett (nothing shocking there). But really, it’s THAT singular voice crack coming into the last chorus that I argue is the moment that made her a star. She famously self-consciously begged T-Bone to use a different take, but he knew better. He knew it was a moment of such power and vulnerability that it would eat people alive…it did and still does.
While she’s risen to dizzying heights on the back of her most recent releases, the album The Story (2007) is still her and the Twin’s magnum opus for my money. It’s just an incredible collection of songs. It actually pisses me off how good it is.
So we’ve established that Brandi Carlile and the Twins are inescapably great. The friendships, the songs, the harmonies, all of it. As if all of that isn’t already enough, it turns out that Brandi Carlile is also a really good human. Annoying, right?! She and the Twins long ago established The Looking Our Foundation so that they could impact and interact directly with causes near and dear to their hearts. They’ve supported a variable array of important causes, all of which caught the attention of Barack Obama. He naturally lists her often as one of his favorite artists. I mean, if Brandi Carlile is good enough for Obama, you should probably get on it ASAP.
The first time I saw Brandi and the Twins play live was many years ago at San Francisco’s venerable Cafe Du Nord. It’s a venue that I myself have had the lucky fortune to play occasionally, which made that night even more special and personal for me. That night she and the Twins played as a trio and the pre-show hum was palpable. I remember her ambling excitedly out onto that small stage with her seemingly gigantic acoustic guitar. She was literally bouncing and then the raw power of that voice coming out of such a tiny person threw me for a complete loop. I was so confused, she just reared her head back and let it all explore out of her. I was powerless, all I could do was cry.
The most responsible thing I can do now is leave you all with a recent clip of Dave Grohl, Brandi and the Twins busking “Let it Be” in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
How’s this for the JOY?!