Brandi Carlile With Special Guests Justin Townes Earle and The Lone Bellow at Wolf Trap by Max Johnson

Starting off with folk/rock outfit The Lone Bellow, the night’s atmosphere was set perfectly. With high-spirited belting in three-part harmony accompanied by sailing mandolin and banjo, The Lone Bellow powered through their short set. The second part of the opening act.

The Lone Bellow.
The Lone Bellow.

Justin Townes Earle gave a bluesier set, performing with a laid back demeanour which somehow did not impede upon the emotions portrayed in his “mommy and daddy issues” songs, which he promised one day he would stop writing. Thankfully, today was not that day.

Justin Townes Earle. Photo by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP.
Justin Townes Earle. Photo by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP.

No matter how good the opening acts were, nothing could compare to the main event. Brandi Carlile’s music is an enthralling amalgamation folk, rock, and country music, forming some of the most brutally emotional songs in today’s scene This seemingly effortless blend is held together by the twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth, who hold down bass and additional guitar parts along with backup vocals.

One of the most distinctive aspects of this concert was how down to earth Brandi seemed. She seemed genuinely excited for her “little band” to be back on this stage, forming a unique connection with her audience that isn’t typically found in big stadium concerts.

As Brandi herself pointed out, there could not be a venue more appropriate for her Hard Way Home Summer Convoy. Nestled within a woodland, this national park emphasizes the folky, backwoods sound of her music, while allowing the unrestrained country-rock aspects of her music to shake the rafters of the pavilion. The onstage decor was simple; the only adornment was an tranquil, sylvan backdrop.

As expected, Brandi gave a mind-blowing vocal performance. Her crackling belt soared with passion, carrying her signature and heart stopping song “The Story.”  There was an excellent balance of old and new songs, giving a bellowing rendition of “Raise Hell” and highlights from her older albums.

Brandi Carlile. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.
Brandi Carlile. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.

What made this performance truly special was her selection of cover songs. Brandi’s version of Radiohead’s “Creep” was equally haunting as it was moving, accompanied only by her own guitar playing. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” gave the band a chance to do some hardcore harmonizing leading into even harder-core guitar solos. However, this song was miraculously shown up by the encore song “Folsom Prison Blues,” in which every member of the band seemed to get completely lost in the energy of the music, concluding the concert with a guitar solo shredded using the artist’s teeth, and more power applied to this iconic song written by one of Brandi’s biggest idols.

This came near to being a perfect concert:  the venue was ideal, the weather was idyllic, and the music touched the soul while pounding the heart. Few artists can produce music that so comfortably sits in the intersection of three genres, and Brandi Carlile is everything an artist should be: inventive, humble, and passionate. She is the whole package!

If you ever have a chance to see Brandi Carlile live, be sure to snatch up your tickets quickly!

Brandi Carlile played on July 24, 2013 for one night only at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center – 1551 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future performances and information, call (877) 965-3872, or check their calendar of events.

Brandi Carlile’s website.
The Lone Bellow website.
Justin Townes Earle’s website.


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