Album Review: Brandi Carlile, “XOBC EP”

Brandi Carlile XOBC EPDon’t let this EP’s status as a Valentine’s Day release fool you into think that it is some sappy collection of love tunes to which Brandi Carlile just happened to lend her voice.  That’s not the case at all; sure, the songs have a bit of a lovey bent, but they’re pure Brandi Carlile, country roots and all.

The release is short — just five tracks, clocking in at just over 15 minutes — and only three of the tracks are original songs by Carlile (with her chief collaborators, Phil and Tim Hanseroth).  The other two are delightfully executed cover songs: “All You Need is Love”, the Beatles classic, and “Heaven”, originally by Bryan Adams.

While most people fall into the school of belief that no one can cover the Beatles, I’ll admit that I’m fairly indifferent to Beatles covers.  If it sounds good, chances are that I’ll like it.  On XOBC, Carlile stays close enough to the original version of “All You Need is Love” so as to not be a jarring cover, but still makes it her own with her always warm and emotive voice.

Carlile’s work is fairly straight forward; the song title tells you what you’re going to get.”Love Songs”, the first original track, is a slow piano-driven ballad which fits in neatly after the Beatles’ cover, with its 60s-esque harmonies at the chorus.  ”Way to You” and “Us Again” are both closer to Brandi’s more country roots, with some fabulous guitar and banjo work underneath the vocals.  Both of these sound like the would have been right at home on Give Up the Ghost, with its country feel.

But for me, the highlight is actually the stripped down cover of “Heaven” that Carlile offers up as the closing track for the album.  If you’re not familiar with Bryan Adams’ original power ballad from the 80s, you may know the song from when it was reinvented as a dance track in 2002.  This is, of course, the precise opposite of the thumping dance hall beats, as it’s been stripped down to just Carlile’s powerful voice and a guitar for a majority of the song.

XOBC EP is available now for purchase, exclusively on iTunes.

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