By the way, I forgive you
“Welcome to the end of being alone inside your mind,” sings Brandi Carlile in the opening line of “The Mother.” This sweet, honest ode to her daughter Evangeline is a standout track on By The Way, I Forgive You, the sixth studio album from Carlile and her bandmates, twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth.
“The Mother” is a fitting single from an Americana album that tackles themes of family, forgiveness, and love—and all the sweetness and ugliness that can come with each. No wonder, then, that throughout the album, Carlile’s vocal power comes to play, from a cracking vibrato on opening track “Every Time I Hear That Song” to a softened, sweet murmur in the orchestral finale “Party of One.”
For those that aren’t longtime fans of Brandi Carlile, perhaps the name still sounds somewhat familiar? Thank President Barack Obama for that, who put lead single “The Joke” on his favorite songs of 2017 list, alongside tracks from genre-spanning artists such as Mavis Staples, SZA, and Kendrick Lamar.
As we all know, the man has impeccable taste. “The Joke” is exactly the kind of song I’ve come to expect from Brandi Carlile. Don’t be fooled by the quiet piano opening and soft twang—it builds, with her vocals gaining power, backed by that piano and then beautiful strings. Carlile and the twins’ songwriting is at its finest here. If the line “I have been to the movies/I have seen how it ends/and the joke’s on them” doesn’t get you choked up, what will? It’s a power anthem for anyone who’s felt like an outcast or been bullied. It’s a nod of recognition to the little girls and women who felt despondent after the last election. It’s a callout to the dangers of toxic masculinity. It’s so much! That kind of message deserves the full power of Brandi Carlile’s pipes, and she delivers.
Opening track “Every Time I Hear That Song” is another standout on this album, a humbling reminder of how tricky it can be to get over a failed love: “And I wonder how you're doing but I wish I didn't care/Because I gave you all I had and got the worst of you.”
Then we’re reminded what this album is all about—forgiveness. ”By the way, I forgive you/after all, maybe I should thank you/for giving me what I found” is empowering in its relatability, in the quiet strength that kind of sentiment requires. (Listen to later track “Harder to Forgive” for a reminder why it can be so tough.)
Along with all that forgiving (and maybe not quite forgetting), Carlile equally shines when she’s singing about family, from her reflections on motherhood to a song about her parents, “Most Of All.” Listening to her singing about her father especially brings me back to how I found Carlile’s blend of Americana and folk rock in the first place: through my dad, and my brother. She’s been a favorite in my family since she released her self-titled debut in 2005. My brother ripped the album for either our dad, or me, or both of us—who knows. It was that time in the not-so-distant past when burned CDs were passed around our family for Christmas, birthdays, or for no particular reason at all, and often it was easy to forget who the rightful owner was.
Listening to By The Way, I Forgive You, transports me to those times with family—to sitting in the grass listening to some good Americana music that’s at times a little country, at times a little rock, and always, always sincere.
“I love you, whatever you do. But I got a life to live, too.”