Totally Biased Fan Review: Brandi Carlile – By the Way, I forgive you

Brandi Carlile -By the way, I Forgive You

I thought that this artist was recommended to me by Australian National Treasure and prolific singer/songwriter, Allan Caswell. That was probably enough information and I can end the review there. I had heard of her name but not her work.  He actually recommended Brandy Clark! Well, close, and in the meantime, I discovered an awesome artist. He likes her too.

The album is produced by Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings. The latter, from Country Music Family royalty, the former a producer of many of modern day country music albums.  He has the reputation of being a modern day God in American Country Music.

So, with that start, it is pretty hard to go wrong. After reading a bit about Brandi’s life and a few other reviews, in major publications – Variety and Rolling Stone –  as well as other fan blog reviews, you get the feeling that Brandi has enough material to work with for her songs for the next 100 years.

Given that information, you can gather that the songs are largely autobiographical. The old write about what you know adage rings true here.

I made a remark on Facebook about new American Country Music, and wondered who was still singing Country as we know it. I had a couple of ideas, but when I thought Allan suggested Brandi. I could see why and in the end, he likes her anyway!

Given that, advice, she also sings and writes some songs that go outside that square. Adele is apparently a big fan.

What is interesting about Carlile’s songs is that while she writes about emotional subjects, she doesn’t get flowery with them. She makes statements, she touches on some pretty sensitive issues without getting corny or oversentimental.

The first song on the album, which mentions the line that gives us the title of the album is apparently about her relationship with her parents, which has been difficult because of her lifestyle choice.

The second song explains why Adele is a fan. It is a soaring vocal piece with heavy orchestration and high emotion.

Most of the songs are quite long for country songs, the shortest being The Mother, which is about her daughter. It is probably the song on the album with the best lyrics. Very clever and honest.

Hold out your hand is a mixture of styles. Kasey Chambers does this sometimes. She starts with one style, moves onto another and then comes back to the original. It is a neat trick and one that not many artists can pull off. I find that it is only female artists who attempt this, it is a brave concoction in one song. It could be argued that Brandi does this three ways in this song.

Whatever you do has one of the most interesting opening lines – If I don’t owe you a favour, you don’t know me – It is probably one of my favourite songs on the album. It has some very interesting lyrics and it hits home on many fronts. Wonderful song.

Fulton County Jane Doe – has been described by many critics as being the most country song on the album. It actually reminds me of a Judy Collins’ song – Born to the Breed – in it’s rhythmic style. I would think of it more as a folk song, which is probably why I like it. I am a folkie first.

Most songs on this album need a few listens. On the surface, they can mean one thing to you, but the more that you listen to the songs, the more layers you reveal.  Sugartooth is one of those songs.

Most of All  has a gentle guitar sound flavouring the song. It is almost like a hymn to him. It is a beautiful song, definitely in my top 3 on the album.

Harder to Forgive is an awesome song. My mother once said that she can forgive but not forget. My aunty responded to that line by saying, then you haven’t forgiven if you can’t forget. It was a profound conversation to listen to, and gave my mother food for thought. It was the first thing that I thought about when I heard this song.

The last song, Party of One, is the longest song. It is full of lines which are the opposite of what I have learned. “You should always let the sun go down on your anger, let it burn you in your sleep…..”  – I was always told not to go to sleep angry. I think that Brandi likes to play with cliches and play with your mind a bit. It works. This is a power ballad and it is a great way to end an album.

This was a great recommendation, not just because it has country content, but because of the amazing lyrics and the way the songs touch a nerve and strike a chord.


1. “Every Time I Hear That Song” Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth 4:01
2. “The Joke” Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth 4:39
3. “Hold Out Your Hand” Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth 4:22
4. “The Mother” Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth 3:17
5. “Whatever You Do” Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth 4:07
6. “Fulton County Jane Doe” Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth 4:43
7. “Sugartooth” Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth 4:28
8. “Most of All” Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth 3:51
9. “Harder to Forgive” Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth 4:06
10. “Party of One” Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth 5:47
Total length: 43:25