In Songbook, Nick Hornby writes about a moment in Rufus Wainwright's "One Man Guy" when God makes a little cameo in the song. He (as in Hornby, not the capital-h He) is not sure if He (as in God, not the capital-h Hornby) pays a visit because maybe He hears the music from afar and wants to listen in, or because He understands what they're trying to do and wants to give them a little help; whatever the reason, God is in the song for just a moment.
When Brandi Carlile sang "All of these lines across my face tell you the story of who I am" in the last verse of the title song from The Story, I'm pretty sure that the Big Guy was in the studio with her. And while T Bone Burnett's production of The Story is superb, that must've been a humbling moment for him; somehow, winning Grammys for O Brother, Where Art Thou? doesn't seem quite as impressive when compared against, say, creating the universe.
Brandi Carlile's first album made me wish that she and the Hanseroth twins (her musical partners in crime) would let go of their reservations and take some real musical risks. While The Story still doesn't fully deliver on their potential, it's a big step in right the direction. This is the kind of album that you can sit down and listen to from front to back, and when the last note of the hidden track fades away, you feel like you maybe know a tiny bit more about life than you did before you pressed play. And isn't that what great rock and encounters with God are all about?
Packaging: (Altered by EPFL.)
The cover is designed to look like the cover of a weathered photo album or scrapbook, and it's a fitting (albeit overused) theme. The photos abandon the teen-popstar feel of Carlile's debut, and instead portray a sensitive yet possibly troublesome group of characters. The booklet focuses on words, but the space is effectively broken up by small woodcuts, fonts that alternate between black and maroon, and different typefaces for each song title.
Listen if you like: Jeff Buckley, Concrete Blonde, Elton John, the music on Smithsonian Folkways but you wish it were performed by rock bands.
If it were food, it'd be: fresh baked biscuits and gravy. It's a simple and honest meal that is hard to perfect. You're never quite the same after your first plate of good biscuits and gravy.