Thursday, April 15, 2021

BROKEN HORSES :: Brandi Carlile

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

Cross-genre musical artist Brandi Carlile seemed to burst on the scene following a multiple Grammy-winning evening in 2019. The most nominated woman at the 61st annual awards (six), Carlile blew audiences away with her Song of the Year performance, "The Joke," an anthem for those who struggle to fit into the world's divisive molds. Thanks to Carlile's intimate memoir, Broken Horses, the story of how the "overnight sensation" struggled and strived for years can be known beyond the fans who have followed her religiously even prior to her first studio album in 2005.

Carlile's childhood in Washington State was marked by alcoholism, poverty, religion, health problems, instability (14 different homes) and, as the first-born grandchild, her own "inflated sense of self-importance and burden of perceived responsibility." That said, her family was warm, close, musical and filled with characters that lay a good storytelling foundation. But it is Carlile's sense of self and her ability to be deeply vulnerable and introspective before an audience that allow her to plumb the depths of her upbringing and forge her trail to center stage.

A brilliant lyricist, Carlile adapts her gift to the long form without missing a beat. Her style is conversational, whether the topic is music, charity work, motherhood (Carlile and her wife have two daughters), LGBTQ+ rights, Barack Obama or Carlile's beloved "gay pen pal father figure," Elton John. Overflowing with thoughtfulness, wicked humor, photographs and song lyrics, Broken Horses is an epic sit around the campfire. 

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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