Brandi Carlile\'s The Story clearly does not fall under the curse of the dreaded sophomore effort that so many promising musicians have failed to wade through. If anything, The Story surpasses her impressive first album; while her self-titled debut stirred enough interest for her name to stay on several Artists to Watch list, The Story cinches her establishment as a serious musician.
The 13-track record displays an improvement in structure; there is a solidity in The Story that\'s more defined than in her first album; the confident, resonant guitar riffs that open "Late Morning Lullaby" and "My Song" for example, exemplifies this. Consequently, The Story is much more rock than Brandi Carlile (“My Song” and the drum-infiltrated “Losing Heart” are both appealing rock-pop numbers reminiscent of U2 and Michelle Branch), but there’s an ever present undertone of folk that is so essential to her sound that never fades away. While this is certainly evident in the pastoral “Have You Ever” (“have you ever wander lonely through the woods…") and “Josephine” ("take me back Josephine/to that cold and lonely December"), a song that is a mixture of both folk and gospel, it is also quietly present in songs like "Late Morning Lullaby" and "Downpour." As a girl from rural Washington state, Carlile never forsakes her roots. This part of her music is clearly crucial to her story, and to her development as a musician.
The Story further exhibits a ferocity and an earnestness, a hunger that’s perhaps not as clear in her debut. Carlile’s voice has never been rawer than in the single, “The Story,” a song that starts off sentimentally soft and erodes into a huge force of rock. She herself has said that the cracking in her voice that comes a little more than halfway through the song is a technical error but that the emotion is correct; technical error or not, Carlile’s vocals in "The Story" is heartbreakingly raw; it is a voice that effectively covers emotions of lost, love, friendship, and the uncertainty of life at large in a matter of four minutes. If she hasn’t already established herself as a strong vocalist in her debut, than The Story should erase all doubts; whether she is bittersweet (“Turpentine”), tirelessly hopeful (the acoustic “Cannonball”), or lyrically confessional ("Shadow on the Wall"), her voice always comes across as strong, honest, and clear.
Produced by seasoned pro T Bone Burnett (he has worked with such artists as Tony Bennett, k.d. Lang, and Counting Crows), The Story was recorded in a live studio, giving it its very authentic sound. This is music that is unadorned, sharp, honest, and music that is so spine-tinglingly good, you\'ll momentarily forgive the music industry for its consistent promotion of plastic, mindless and formulaic rock stars and teenage punk-rock, pop-punk nonsense. With the release of The Story, it\'s safe to say that Brandi Carlile has not only found a strong fan base, but also a sound and style whose directions will be both highly followed and anticipated.
"The Story" is on sale April 3, 2007 from Columbia.