Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Brandi Carlile: The Firewatcher's Daughter [ATO, 2015]
In case you didn't know this gay Patsy-Jewel hybrid was corny, she begins by pretending "Wherever is your heart I call home" has some kick because she gives it her all and you can hum it on the Exercycle, and soon, jonesing for a hook, she's mocking a rocking "Mainstream Kid" like Peter Gabriel getting his rocks off vaunting "Sledgehammer." But having submitted these Americana bona fides, she demonstrates that the right corn can provide needed roughage--an "If you're good at telling lies, you could be my alibi," say, or a "Last night I had the exact same dream as you/I killed a bird to save your life and you gave me your shoes." In this her strong voice proves essential as you begin to notice how rarely it's overbearing. She's emotive--has to be. But she's more detailed than your usual belter, because she knows strong voices aren't just for knocking folks over. And was she ever born to cover the Avett Brothers: "Make sure my wife knows that I loved her/Make sure my daughter knows the same/And always remember there is nothing worth sharing/Like the love that let us share our name." A-