Don't let the name fool you: Brandi Carlile, who will take the stage at the House of Blues on Thursday, is not some run-of-the-mill pop starlet.
If you know anything about the Seattle songwriter, you know she has a certain quality commonly called an amazing voice. It's the kind of voice that is, for lack of a better word, right. No matter what she's singing, it drives home the truth. In September, Paste Magazine said Carlile has the best voice in indie rock, topping Thom Yorke, Neko Case, Cat Power and My Morning Jacket's Jim James. Pretty serious company.
In October, Carlile released her much-anticipated third release, Give up the Ghost, and it is classic Carlile. The songs are mournful yet somehow joyous, the harmonies beg for a spontaneous sing-along, and the musicianship is impeccable.
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I saw her perform at Anthology in June, and it was cathartic. Carlile and "the twins" -- Tim and Phil Hansenroth, her co-writers/backing band -- performed a number of songs from Give up the Ghost as well as a lot of old favorites. The venue's awesome acoustics even inspired her to sing an unplugged, a cappella rendition of "How These Days Grow Long" at the edge of the stage.
Carlile's a genuinely warmhearted person, too, which is why her sincere songs never feel hollow. In Paste's review of Give up the Ghost, Rachael Maddux wrote, "She’s good -- a really solid, deep-down kind of good, and not just in terms of her musical ability or quality of output, but on a basic moral level, too."
That about sums it up. After Carlile's show at Anthology, she stuck around to sign autographs and talk to anyone who wanted to say hello, which was pretty much everyone in the packed house. The only reason I didn't get in line was because I didn't want to wait three hours.
T. Loper is a writer for the San Diego music blog Owl and Bear.