Jul 11, 2012

by English Muse

Jesse Kornbluth, of HeadButler.com, this week wrestling with a moral conundrum as a brilliant song puts me on the spot.

It’s embarrassing. No, really, it’s humiliating to admit this, but somebody wronged me in 1989 and I still haven’t dealt with it. I’ve tiptoed right up to the door of a conversation I need to have with this person, a close friend who very nearly cost me the best job I’d ever had, but I’ve never taken the final step and told her that I know what she did and asked why she did it. I have my reasons — I mean: I have my rationalizations — and first among them is that I knew from day one why she did it: She was desperate, there was something she had to have, and it made no difference what lie she had to tell about a close friend to get it.

One could have compassion for someone so over her head that it didn’t matter who she had to burn to survive. But for more than two decades, I haven’t been able to forgive this person. When I think of her — and it’s not often — I’m suddenly sitting on a powder keg of fury, with no way to locate compassion or forgiveness.

In a moment like that — a moment of loathing for her and self-loathing for myself — I heard a song from Brandi Carlile’s new CD, “”Bear Creek.” It’s called “That Wasn’t Me,” and it’s about addiction — not hers — and dealing with it, and that person changing, and friends wanting to believe in that change. It’s about love and compassion and hope, emotions that Brandi Carlile can access with astonishing speed. Of course I bawled when I first heard it — the way I know something is Art is that it makes me cry — and I got teary all over again the next dozen times I heard it. So I stopped playing the CD. For a never-before reason: It was too good. [To buy “Bear Creek” from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]

But now there’s been an event — you don’t need the details — that has reminded me of this long-distant betrayal. And the wrong done to me has been gnawing at me. Often. So, seeking solace in somebody else’s drama, I put on “Bear Creek” again. And, in “That Wasn’t Me,” I heard the words fresh: “Do I make myself a blessing to everyone I meet?”

And you know what? I don’t. It’s not obvious that I don’t, because I can fake it as well as anyone in this city, but it became very clear to me that as long as I’m holding onto this bile, I’m treating everybody I deal with just a bit more defensively than I ought to. That’s got to stop. And I’m gonna stop it.

Why tell this story?

I’m not minimizing the importance of entertainment — life is hard, a good night out is to be cherished — but some entertainers are healers as well as performers. And over three CDs, I find qualities in Brandi Carlile that are worthy of admiration. Healing qualities. And not, I’d bet, just for me.

These deeper qualities are not immediately apparent. She has a powerful voice — when she lets go, she’s right up there with Janis Joplin — and that showmanship dazzles.

And although she can rock, she can also do country, which is no longer a genre that seems to allow for much real feeling. But most of all — and this requires some careful listening to notice — as a writer she can communicate very directly: “I want to leave this town/ Fake my death/ Never look back.” I’ve been there. You?

Old fans are divided about this CD. They’re partial to The Story and Give Up the Ghost — “authentic” Brandi. They fear she’s lost her edge in this outing, that she’s reaching out to the pop music arena crowd. I’m impressed by their ability to read her mind and know her goals.

Me, I hear cellos amid the guitars. I hear harmony. I hear a woman in her early 30s writing her diary. And at the end of “Just Kids” — the last song on the CD, a song that, not accidentally I suspect, bears the same title as Patti Smith’s book — I hear these lyrics: “Over the rainbow, out in the snow / Learning to walk with sand in our toes / Long to be tall, kissed when you fall / Hoping that someone will come when you call.” And then, as the music fades, I hear … frogs. Recorded by the creek near the studio. In these hellacious days, that strikes me as beauty.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 at 4:22 am. It is filed under Decor. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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3 Responses to “Brandi Carlile: ‘Do I make myself a blessing to everyone I meet?’”

  1. Tara Dillard says:

    Hurts to learn detachment with love. Hurts again to realize I must give my hope for someone to G*d. Forgiveness gives me freedom. It’s the easiest thing to do.

    Have been criticised for not defending myself against ‘addictive’ person. No, I won’t go to their level. Will remain true to my inner beliefs.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  2. Hannah says:

    aww i love this post. I had exactly the same thing happen and the person still infuriates me because they were so fake and spiteful. i kind of feel pleased that they’re out of my life though



  3. CopyStrands says:

    My husband introduced me to Brandi Carlile a few years ago (he watched her sing in Seattle music shops before she made it big). I wasn’t a fan until this album. The song: “That Wasn’t Me” made me tear up as well. It is a beatifully written song that can be interpreted so many ways. I identified wiht it; she is so talented. Great post!

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