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Catchgroove – The Desert Sessions: AC/DC the Bon Scott years 1975-1979

We have been in Phoenix a little over a week now and, my first musical obsession in Arizona is, of all things, AC/DC – more specifically the Bon Scott version of the band. I haven’t listened to AC/DC in years. I was running some errands and I dialed up some driving music and on a whim I played Let There Be Rock (1977). It sounded so good and I was down the AC/DC rabbit hole.

My most vivid memory of AC/DC was seeing the concert film AC/DC: Let There Be Rock at the Skyway Theater in Minneapolis in the fall of 1980 with my buddy/roommate Marty. The showing was augmented with a nice concert PA system – it rocked. The movie was filmed on December 9, 1979 at the Pavillon de Paris in Paris, France, and also contains interviews with members of the band, including lead vocalist Bon Scott, who died shortly after filming.

In the US market, the debut of AC/DC was High Voltage, which was a compilation of their first two Australian releases. It only included two tracks from the Australian High Voltage release – “She’s Got Balls” and “Little Lover” – with the rest of the songs taken from T.N.T. It remains my favorite AC/DC album. It set the template for the sound and vibe. It includes my favorite AC/DC song “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll).” It was a signature song for Bon Scott. Brian Johnson, who replaced Scott as AC/DC’s lead vocalist after Scott’s death in 1980, does not perform it, out of respect for his predecessor.

Next up was Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap the band third Australian release, but released in the US in 1981 after the death of Bon Scott and the success of Back and Black (which was a tribute to Bon). The titular track is a classic.

Let There Be Rock (1977) was an album I never owned physically, and so it is new to me, with the exception of “Whole Lotta Rosie.” As I stated in the opening paragraph of this post this was the album that hooked me into this recent AC/DC jag. Wonderfully trashy hard rock blues.

Powerage (1978) is an album I have a CD of, but never really got into, listening to it now with fresh ears it sounds great, but if I get the AC/DC itch I am more likely to listen to other albums.

Highway To Hell is a masterpiece and my second favorite album. It became AC/DC’s first LP to break the US Top 100, eventually reaching number 17, and it propelled the band into the top ranks of hard rock acts. Unfortunately, it was the last Bon Scott album.

Back And Black (1980). It was the first AC/DC album to enter my consciousness. It is my third favorite album by the boys. It is not higher only because it has been over-listened to. Unfortunately it doesn’t have Bon who had died in classic rock star fashion: per the coroner, Scott had died of “acute alcohol poisoning” and classified it as “death by misadventure.” The band does consider the album a tribute to Bon Scott.

‘74 Jailbreak is an EP released in the mid-80s and is previously unreleased (in the US) Australian material recorded. I had never listened to it until recently. Shows a punkier side of the band.

I am now working my way through the live material from this period, but I will save you from that rabbit hole.

What I like about AC/DC is that they are hard rock, but they are more toe tapping than head banging. Bon Scott can wail like Robert Plant, but can be as silly in his vocals as Keith Moon. They are kind of punk (in The Ramones sense of punk), but unlike most punks, bluesy. They found their lane and stuck to it – they have been playing the same schtick for 50 years and somehow it never gets old. Thanks Arizona for reminding me of their greatness.

Catchgroove: The Desert Sessions – THE VOYAGE

We drove from Minneapolis to Phoenix – per Google Maps it is 25 hours. We decided to break it up over three days as we had never traveled with our pup Margo.

Day one (1/6/22) was Minneapolis to Wichita. A fairly uneventful drive. The first hour was dicey out of Minneapolis as it was bitterly cold with some black ice on the road.

Day two was a little more interesting as we traversed the rest of Kansas, the Oklahoma Texas panhandles and into New Mexico. Our drive kind of followed the lifecycle of beef: grazing cattle, feed lots and finally to slaughter houses. We stayed overnight in Santa Rosa NM. In hindsight we were game for another few hours of driving. Concluding after the success of day one and day two we could have done the trip from Minneapolis to Phoenix in two vs three days.

Day 3 we set out early and watched the sunrise in the rear view mirror on our way to Albuquerque. Things continued to go well as we admired desolate New Mexico. With excitement we entered Arizona. Soon Google Maps alerted us of a route change due to road closures and we headed off I40 to Show Low. It was nice to get on a quiet two lane road and not have to compete with semis. We arrived in the quaint town of Show Low with streets named with clever gambling references.

After passing through the town of Show Low on US 60 the high-desert grassland was replaced by stately ponderosa pine trees. The ground was carpeted with a recent snow. It felt like we had transported to Colorado. It was beautiful. But soon we were in the Salt River Canyon. We were shocked to find ourselves on a terrifyingly yet breath taking beautiful route of ups and downs and and hairpin turns – all on the edge of the canyon- it felt like a driving error would be fatal. We had no idea what we had entered and when it would end. It was both exhilarating and exhausting. When we finally reached a rest area we were in great need of a little relief. The little detour went on and on for 90 minutes. It is one of the greatest drives I have ever been on and part of the thrill was it was unexpected. I assumed this was a legendary scenic drive. After the fact I googled it expecting it to be on various lists of classic drives – crickets! It was barely mentioned – even on Arizona sites. Maybe it is not that amazing – except for Midwest flatlanders. Highly recommend day trip out of Phoenix – not for the faint of heart.

A sample of the Salt River Canyon drive

We arrived at our friends Mary and Garvin’s house to stay the night (our new home didn’t have any furniture – a bed would arrive in two days). Our pup Margo enjoyed their backyard after being cooped up in a crate for three days. We enjoyed a warm (by Minnesota standards) January Phoenix late afternoon.

We “moved” in Sunday 1/9/22. Moving in meant unpacking our SUV, unpacking 7 boxes we had sent via UPS and a Target and Costco run. We have no furniture. We were too enthusiastic to leave and so we stayed the night and camped, that is, we slept on our bedroom floor.

Monday a bed and couch arrived – luxury. I went to the cable store to pickup equipment for cable and internet. Bought a TV and went home and set it up. By Monday night we were on the couch and watching Georgia beat Alabama. We went to bed on our new mattress and a bed never felt so good. We had officially arrived in our Arizona home.

P.S. on the way down we saw the following animal crossing signs: deer, cattle, elk, caribou and my personal favorite: beware of ass crossing:

Catchgroove: The Desert Sessions – PREFACE

I am about a year from retirement. On January 6, I turned 63. Laura and I have lived in Minnesota our entire lives. More specifically, we have lived in the same 10 mile radius our entire lives. We are about to embark on a new adventure – we have purchased a second home in Phoenix Arizona. Our plan is to become snowbirds: summers in Minneapolis and winters in Phoenix.

The Desert Sessions will chronicle this adventure in Arizona with a special emphasis on the music I am listening to in the desert. See also my Instagram @catchgroove for more frequent posts.

I am not going to complain about the financial challenges of owning a second home, but I am having to make sacrifices with my vinyl habit for a bit. But thankfully there is streaming – my Methadone.

I have been seriously collecting physically music since 1977. First vinyl LPs and by the mid-80s CDs. Back you did not have much choice but to buy physical media. The radio was limited. You could borrow LPs or CDs and copy to tape (cassettes), but that was dependent on the quality of your friends.

The Minneapolis listening loft

Cassettes had the advantage of being portable – in cars, boom boxes and Walkmans. They were the tool by which you could “file share”. I never had 8 Tracks.

CDs had the advantage of no surface noise, reasonable durability, and once buffering solved motion skipping, portability. Another advantage of CDs is you could get great sound from mediocre equipment. CDs also raised the price of albums – CDs were roughly three times the cost of vinyl records. At first this increased cost was justified: albums had to be remastered, manufacturing couldn’t meet demand, distribution and retail had to adapt to a new size of product, etc.

File sharing, iPods, and MP3s made music free and portable. The free part required you to ignore the fact you were stealing more than sharing. Although stealing was easier to justify given the unjust pricing of CDs (too expensive). MP3s sounded like shit, but hey connivence has a price. The Apple model of buying songs digitally never appealed to me (almost as expensive as CDs for a frictionless product – except you could by songs vs. albums).

Streaming made things easier, accessible, ethical (legal is a better term), and cheap. Initially we had to deal with MP3 quality, but that is behind us now with high resolution streaming. We now have it all: portable, easy, cheap, accessible, audiophile sound and legal. The only downside is the artist get screwed – but the artist always gets screwed.

I listen to high resolution streaming (via Tidal) more than any other medium. Yet I still buy vinyl – why? It is complicated. That will have to wait for another post.

I assume the next few months I will be focused on streaming as it will be awhile before the Arizona crib is vinyl friendly – acquiring a chair to sit in will likely be more important than the latest release on wax. Eventually I assume I will check out the local record store scene. I will hack my two channel stereo into the built in ceiling mounted speaker system. I brought a starter LP collection to Phoenix – kind of like sourdough. I selected albums that are not available on streaming services – more about those albums later.

I look forward to sharing this next chapter in our lives over the next few months.

In ceiling speakers from the previous owners

Catchgroove’s 2021 Favorites

When I look at my favorites of 2021 I see a nice mix of old favorites and new (to me) artists. I am not sure if there is a theme or not, but I see a thread: jams. I don’t pretend that this is a best of list, merely my favorites, formed by, my not particularly broad, musical taste. Here is the top 10 followed by “honorable mentions” in no particular order:

#1 Tedeschi Trucks Band featuring Trey Anastasio – Layla Revisited (Live at LOCKN’) link. I like it better than the original.

#2 Pat Metheny Side Eye V1.IV NYC. I had the privilege of seeing Metheny’s hot young trio twice: once before the pandemic and once recently. This recording is the best souvenir I could have. link

#3 Prince Welcome 2 America link. The vault excavation continues – this time its a whole album that is so on point politically for our times, that it turns out the purple one was a prophet!

#4 Bob Dylan Springtime in New York link. Dylan’s much maligned 80s work is fleshed out and recast for the genius chapter of his catalog I always felt it was. This is the Dylan I was experiencing in real time in my early 20s.

#5 Goose Ted Tapes 2021 link. A new band to me. Instrumental space jam.

#6 The War On Drugs: I Don’t Live Here link. Do yourself a favor and listen on a good pair of headphones.

#7 Steven Wilson – The Future Bites link. This the first album by Wilson or any of his other projects (e.g, Porcupine Tree) that I have listened to. It has opened a wonderful rabbit hole. It sounds like a modern Moody Blues or Pink Floyd.

#8 Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising The Roof link 14 years after Raising Sand, the pair have reunited with producer T-Bone Burnett for a sequel and proof that Raising Sand was not a fluke.

#9 Floating Points/Pharaoh Saunders & The London Symphony Orchestra Promises link. Very cool concept: electronica musician joining forces with legendary octogenarian jazz musician backed by a symphony orchestra. It totally works.

#10 Brandi Carlile In These Silent Days. A worthy follow up to her breakthrough. link

Honorable Mentions– in no particular order:

Bluesound Node 2i link. In the streaming age a dedicated streaming device (a streamer) is a must have component for an audiophile. Life changing seems a little dramatic, but this has been a great addition to the big boy stereo. I have to admit I listen to more hi-res streams than LPs and CDs now. It brings the convince of an iPhone Bluetooth connection with the audiophile quality of a computer hooked to a DAC. Tidal MQA is the service of my choice.

Daniel Lanois – Heavy Sun link. This is Lanois’ (producer of Bob Dylan, U2, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, Emmylou Harris, and Robbie Robertson) take on gospel music. It is featuring the Hammond organ of Johnny Shepherd, sometime organist at Zion Baptist in Shreveport, Louisiana. Not surprising, Lanois does not play it straight. His take on gospel music has hints of reggae and electronica. As the kids like to say: pretty dope.

Charles Lloyd & the Marvels – Tone Poem link. Lloyd’s late career resurgence with jazz/Americana continues. Get it on vinyl – Blue Note’s Time Poet series highlights how great the medium can be.

Greta Van Fleet – The Battle At Garden’s Gate link. I could care less that they are derivative. It’s only rock ‘n roll and I like it!

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Way Down In The Rust Bucket link. A fantastic live album from a warm up show for the Ragged Glory tour (1990).

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Barn. I have not had a chance to give this album a proper review. You can’t go wrong with Neil and the Horse. There are a few clumsy political songs but overall tasty.

Lucinda Williams Lu’s Jukebox series. Lucinda is the perfect person to cover Petty and Dylan. link. Not available on streaming services.

Kacey Musgraves Star Crossed. Another worthy follow up to a big album. link

Billie Eilish Happier Than Ever link. How does the biggest teen pop star in the world follow up a huge record? With a wonderful adult album that is an artist step forward.

John Mayer Sob Rock. Mayer brilliantly embraces yacht rock. Hidden in the sugar are tasty guitar licks. link

Gary Louris Jump For Joy. Louris and The Jayhawks have always had a soundboard fader where they slide between Americana and the British Invasion. This release is a slide towards the British Invasion. If you like McCartney, you will like this.

Black Keys Delta Kream link. The album celebrates the band’s roots & features songs by R.L. Burnside & Junior Kimbrough. The opening track is the blues standard “Crawling King Snake” (a hit for John Lee Hooker, but the Keys take a Junior Kimbrough approach).

Pat Metheny John Scofield I Can See Your House from Here reissue link. Originally digitally recorded (88.2 kHz/24-bit) in 1994, Blue Note remastered it for vinyl and somehow made it better.

Ron Miles Rainbow Sign link. This is a 2020 release, but I did not discover it until 2021. There are so many great jazz artists that never get heard. Thank goodness I got to hear this album.

Adele 30 – The first cut sounds like schlock, but the rest of the album is brilliant. She has had 4 great albums in a row.

Jackson Browne Down Hill From Everywhere – I continue to be amazed that classic rockers continue to put out quality material in their 70s. Nothing new here, just a craftsman continuing to craft excellence.

Jerry Garcia Band – this 1991 album is one of my favorite albums. Link. Finally reissued on vinyl this year. It was supposed to be a Record Store Day release, but quality issues forced it to be pulled. But it finally made it to market by year end.

Arlo Parks Collapsed Sunbeams link. I don’t like having to label music, but it is a useful way to explain what an artist or band sounds like. For Arlo Park I would call it “folk soul.” It has the intimacy and simplicity of folk music and some subtle funk and hip-hop vibe to give it soul.

FINNEAS – Optimist. I had no interest in this (producer solo albums typically suck) until I listened to an interview/podcast with him and he was fascinating. I gave it a listen and it was good. I shared it with my wife and her take was it sounded like a combo of Harry Styles and Father John Misty. Pretty perceptive take – FINNEAS is a huge FJM fan.

Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker 4 LP Super Deluxe Edition I am a Crowes fan and picked up the CD back in the day when this was a huge album. This reissue includes the original album, 3 never-before-heard studio recordings; 2 unreleased demos from the band’s early incarnation as Mr. Crowe’s Garden; B-sides; a spectacular, high-energy 14-song unreleased concert recorded in their hometown of Atlanta, GA in December 1990; reproductions of an early Mr. Crowe’s Garden show flyer, setlist and tour laminate; a 4″ Crowes patch; and a 20-page book with liner notes by David Fricke.

Patti reminded me, no reprimand me, about the importance of live music! Transcendent. Link.

That’s a wrap for 2021.

Lucinda Williams – Lu’s Jukebox Vol. 3 – Bob’s Back Pages: A Night Of Bob Dylan Songs

Lu’s Jukebox is a six-volume series of mostly full-band performances recorded live at Ray Kennedy’s Room & Board Studio in Nashville, TN in 2020. Each volume features a themed set of songs or tribute to an artist curated by Lucinda Williams.

Earlier this year I picked up the Tom Petty volume of Lu’s Jukebox. That was great, but this Bob Dylan volume is even better. I am not sure why, but here are a few reasons:

  • Dylan’s music lends itself to interpretation by other artists
  • I am more of a Dylan fan than a Petty fan
  • Lucinda may be more emotionally connected to Bob
  • Lucinda’s murky, swampy and bluesy arrangements are not that far from Bob’s musical modus operandi the last couple of decades

But another reason I like this collection is that it is a great selection of Dylan. Lucinda has avoided the obvious and has gone down the deep cut route – focusing on the back half of his career. Below is the track list:

  1. It Takes A Lot To Laugh
  2. Everything Is Broken
  3. Political World
  4. Man Of Peace
  5. Not Dark Yet
  6. Meet Me In The Morning
  7. Blind Willie McTell
  8. Tryin’ To Get To Heaven
  9. Queen Jane Approximately
  10. Idiot Wind
  11. Make You Feel My Love

As mentioned earlier, Lucinda wraps the songs in slow, murky, and swampy arrangements. Lucinda’s vocals are her usual sassy slur – a perfect proxy for the bard’s snarl.

Unfortunately, Lu’s Jukebox is not available on streaming services. You can buy it physical at your favorite record shop or get digital files from regular sources (e.g. Amazon).

If you are a Lucinda fan, this is a must have. If you are Dylan fan – especially late era – you will dig this album. Lucinda’s interpretations are fantastic.

Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

This might be the most underrated great Wilco album in their catalog. It arrived in the shadows of the artistic and commercial successes of Yankee Foxtrot Hotel and A Ghost Is Born. It was a great simplification of their sound – they shed the sound effects of the two previous albums in favor of guitar histrionics of new member Nils Cline.

Nils Cline is an amazing guitar player and bandleader in his own right. He is a great addition to Wilco. Cline has a skill that most guitar heroes don’t have: he knows how to complement a song with his solos.

As rock critic Steven Hyden (@Steven_Hyden) recently pointed out, when swooning about this album, he noted that this is when the Wilco lineup solidified and that lineup has been in place for over 20 years now:

  • Nels Cline – guitars
  • Mikael Jorgensen – keys
  • Glenn Kotche – drums
  • Pat Sansone – multi-instrumentalist
  • John Stirratt (original member) – bass
  • Jeff Tweedy (original member) – guitars

This album has quiet folky ballads and loud rock & roll – all melodic AF, perfectly arranged, with tasteful solos, and Tweedy’s vocals are as soulful as he gets.

The album boasts a Wilco staple: “Impossible Germany” – a fixture at every live show I have seen since this album came out – an excuse for Cline to shred. But the whole album is great, it has a totally 70s vibe. There’s George Harrison/Beatles, ZZ Top boogie, but mostly Wilco being Wilco.

If you are not familiar with Wilco this is a great introduction. If you are familiar with Wilco, but this missed your radar, check it out. If you are a Wilco fan – you already know.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising The Roof

I loved 2007’s Raising Sand. It was a genius move to pair Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant with bluegrass/country royal Alison Krauss. Producer T Bone Burnett (one of my favorites – his production credit almost guarantees an album I am going to love) crafted a perfect recipe from two amazing ingredients. The combo of Burnett, Plant and Krauss are back for a successful sequel.

When Led Zeppelin tragically ended with the death of drummer John Bonham in the fall of 1980, I assumed that Jimmy Page would have been the guy with amazing post Zeppelin career. But it is Robert Plant that has had the more interesting post Zep career. He has created a wonderful stew of the blues, rock and roll, folk, world music and electronica. Raising Sand leveraged all of that with Krauss’ angelic voice creating an album of classic Americana. It was so successful (platinum selling and winning Album of the Year at the 2008 Americana Music Honors & Awards and at the 2009 Grammy Awards) that I assumed we would never see a sequel – Plant hates to repeat himself.

Raising The Roof is more of the same and that is OK with me, more of the same means:

  • Perfect song choices
  • Brilliant arrangements
  • Magic harmonies
  • And musical joy

We needed Plant and Krauss to “raise” some more and they have delivered another masterpiece. The first album was a bit more of Krauss’ country and the new one more of Plant’s late career hybrid rock. It is the perfect sequel.

Some great background on the album is in this podcast. Includes an interview with Plant and Krauss and examples of source material for the songs.

Radiohead – Kid A Mnesia

I have a distinct memory of buying Kid A on release Tuesday October 2, 2000. My plan was to take my daughter to gymnastics lessons and kick back in the mini van and savor it in peace. I tore the cellophane off the CD and slipped it into the dash and out came a sonic gibberish and my immediate response was WTF? I was not savoring, I “woke up sucking on a lemon.”

I loved the previous two Radiohead releases: The Bends and OK Computer. I had great expectations for the new album. What I did not realize was the band wanted to sabotage their career. They recorded an intentionally challenging album, dumping their signature guitar sound for a stew of electronic music, ambient music, krautrock, jazz, and 20th-century classical music. I thought it sounded terrible, in hindsight I was clearly not hip enough to get it:

  • Kid A debuted at the top of the UK Albums Chart
  • Became Radiohead’s first number-one album in the United States
  • It was platinum in Australia, Canada, France, Japan, the US and the UK.
  • It won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year

It took me years to get it, but eventually I did. So it was with these informed expectations that I have been looking forward to this release. Specifically on vinyl as I have originally purchased these as CDs when they debuted.

Kid A and Amnesiac were released eight months apart from one another and were recorded simultaneously in 1999 and 2000 with producer Nigel Godrich. The re-release joins the two albums and adds a third album of outtakes and alternate versions. Kid A and Amnesiac flow seamlessly together and could easily have been originally released as a double album. I have to admit I have listened to Kid A more than Amnesiac. I was so put off by Kid A back in the day that I never gave Amnesiac a fair chance. Once I accepted Kid A, Amnesiac got lost in my collection and I never spent quality time with it. Listening to Amnesiac now, it is every bit as good as Kid A and more accessible.

I was excited for the third album of alternative takes and outtakes. However, that turned out to be underwhelming. There is some cool extra stuff, for example, “Follow Me Around” which could easily be a Seattle grunge song. But most of the extras are not that revelatory.

Overall, if you already own or have access to Kid A and Amnesiac in your desired format, this is release is not essential (unless you are a completist).

For me, I felt the need to upgrade from my CDs to vinyl, but as I publish this post, the vinyl release is still in supply chain limbo. I have yet to hear the vinyl – an initial batch of colored vinyl did make it out on release day, but that sold out immediately. Hope it will be worth the wait.

It arrived! And yes worth the wait.

The War On Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore

I have been a fan of The War On Drugs (TWOD) since 2014’s Lost in the Dream. I loved its narcotic psychedelic ambiance, yet 80s vibe. It was bathed in synths, hot guitar licks, pop-rock melodies, and dreamy vocals. They didn’t miss a beat on 2017’s A Deeper Understanding. I assumed TWOD was a studio concoction, but 2020’s Live Drugs showed they could rock it live. With I Don’t Live Here Anymore they continue to be on a roll. It is so rare when a band/artist can pump out three great studio albums in a row – TWOD have done it!

If you are not familiar with TWOD, the best way I can describe them is contemporary 80s classic rock. I hear many influences: R.E.M., late era Pink Floyd (sans Roger Waters), 80s Dylan, Tunnel Of Love era Springsteen, Dire Straits, etc. The music is highly layered keyboards and guitars on a solid toe-tapping rhythm section. It is great headphone music.

The new album is sonically similarly to their last two, but I would say the craft is a bit more polished and pop. Not in a bad way – their evolution is similar to R.E.M.’s who similarly evolved to a more polished and pop sound without artistic compromise. It does not feel contrived or reaching for the fences – just a confident embrace of their success.

The opening track, “Living Proof” is disarming – a new sound for TWOD. It is sparse and unadorned (by TWOD standards). But the album returns to traditional lush TWOD form after that.

Nice quality vinyl release

If you liked the last two TWOD albums, you will like this one. If you are new to the band, this is a great starting point.

Brandi Carlile – In These Silent Days

In These Silent Days is the seventh studio album by Brandi Carlile, released via Low Country Sound/Elektra Records on October 1, 2021

My introduction to Brandi was purchasing her album The Story on CD in 2007. I loved the album and its titular song, but somehow it did not make me a fan. I pretty much ignored her despite her success in the Twin Cities market. What caught my attention was her performance of “The Joke” at the 61st Grammys (2019) – it was stunning.

The Grammy performance convinced my wife and I to see her live at the Minnesota State Fair later that year. I have seen a lot of live shows and this was a Top 10 show. We bought T-shirts and became fans.

What is Brandi? Is she folk, Americana, rock, pop, county, etc. My conclusion is she is classic rock. Despite her affiliation with Joni Mitchell, I think the more accurate template is Elton John. The songs are written by a team, she has had a consistent band over the years, she performs in dramatic arrangements with lots of dynamics and she is a charismatic front woman. It doesn’t matter – she makes my favorite kind of music: good music.

And so we come to the follow up to a very successful album, By the Way, I Forgive You. Always a tightrope walk for an artist. The follow up is great – she has defeated the odds with a worthy follow up. I should say “they” vs “she” as I see Brandi Carlile as a band vs solo act: Brandi, the twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth and a stable touring band.

Carlile returns with the same production team as her last album: Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings. Cobb has worked his magic all over alternative Nashville: The Highwomen, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and John Prine to name a few.

Lyrically Carlile deals with adult relationships – this is my new working definition of country music. Musically there is Elton histrionics, Joni pop folk, Bonnie Raitt swagger and those classic Brandi and the Twins harmonies. Nothing new here from Carlile, just the usual high quality craft.

Spinning Brandi Carlile’s In These Silent Days

My hot take would be that In These Silent Days is better than By the Way, I Forgive You. By the Way, I Forgive You had a few slow spots, whereas every song on In These Silent Days is perfect. Brandi seems fully comfortable and confident in the skin of the rock star she has become. She believes in the truth that is Brandi Carlile. Can’t wait to see her play this batch of new songs live – hurry up Brandi and announce a proper tour!