October 1, 2008
Apparently, country music is the place to be right now! Who isn’t releasing a country album these days? I read just this week that Kevin Costner (yes, that Kevin Costner) is coming out with a country album on November 11th and sending singles to radio this week. I also read that Dan Evans, a contestant on the Biggest Loser, is coming out with an album inspired by Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban. I’m also still waiting for Beyonce’s country album…and I wouldn’t be surprised if Britney Spears makes a country album (after all, she is from Louisiana) if her next album doesn’t sell.
But all of this has got me thinking about who I would actually like to see “cross-over” into country music. One artist that I’d love to see give it a try is one of my favorite new artists (well, new to me) Brandi Carlile, a folk-rock singer-songwriter from the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be honest, if country radio started playing her, I might start listening again. Part Patsy Cline, part Bonnie Raitt, part Natalie Maines, she’s got a soulful wail the likes of which I haven’t heard in a long time. She injects more passion, heart and intensity into one track than all of the songs on current top 40 country radio combined.
Although removed from country’s mainstream, Carlile recently hasn’t been afraid to tip-toe around the edges: Her last album, The Story, was produced by T-Bone Burnett (of Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? fame), her upcoming album was recorded at Blackbird Studio in Nashville, and her recent live EP includes a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” (Has anyone else noticed that artists in other genres are embracing country music’s greats, while self-proclaimed country artists are ignoring them?) She also has country in her genes: Her grandfather was also a yodeler and bluegrass-country singer, and his mother a saloon-style pianist.
As a teenager, Carlile apparently tried to rid her voice of its country sound, but she definitely has it, and I’d love to see her embrace it in the future. Seriously, how can you not love an artist who remarked after her voice famously cracked while recording the title track of her last album that although it was an accident, it was a welcome one—one that was “technically wrong but emotionally right”? That’s a concept that Nashville somehow forgot along the way, and would do well to remember again.
So, with that, who would you love to see “cross-over” into country music?