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Originally published Monday, May 2, 2011 at 7:04 PM

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Brandi Carlile soars on new live SSO recording

Brandi Carlile's fourth album, "Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony," comes out Tuesday, May 3.

Seattle Times staff reporter

quotes I've heard some wonderful singers in my time, but I think that Brandi is one of the... Read more
quotes at the shows she speaks of: the SSO brings the goods and so does Brandi. Her band is... Read more
quotes I was at the concert. Outstanding! The cd captures the feeling and the artistry. You... Read more

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Singer-songwriter and Washington state native Brandi Carlile has released three studio albums, but she is calling her breathtaking new recording, "Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony," her best work to date.

"Of all the albums we've made, this is the one we're most proud of," Carlile said. "It's really truly us as a live band."

The tracks — many from her last folk-rock powerhouse album, "Give Up the Ghost" — are a mix of Carlile's hits and some choice covers. Recorded live with 30 members of the SSO, the disc perfectly pairs her commanding voice with the simple power of the orchestrations.

"It's really intense when you're playing," she said. "They let you have one rehearsal to prepare you for how profound it will be. It shocks you, the orchestra weaving in and out of your music."

She said the band always wanted the fourth album to be recorded live. She looked at pitching a famous venue, but after playing with the symphony a few years ago, she wanted to go back to record.

The recording is meant to feel like a performance, not a CD (the first track is the symphony's curtain call). She jokes with the audience between songs and asks the crowd to participate in three-part harmony on "Turpentine." This is an album meant to show all the Brandi Carlile fans out there what they've been missing at her concerts.

Standouts include "Dreams" and "Pride and Joy," which showcase Carlile's unique folk-rock style. They're raw and gravelly at times, silky and bright at others — with her trademark yodel. Her voice is enthralling, emotional and fun.

The closing track, a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" modeled after Jeff Buckley's version, envelopes listeners in what feels like a grand melodic sacrament, the orchestration emphasizing the velvety beauty of Carlile's voice. She fills the room with lofty arias, making the hair on the back of your neck stand up again and again.

"That song, it's transcendent," she said. "There's no room for your nerves ... it demands your attention. It's an out-of-body thing."

Carlile starts touring with her band in a few days and will join up with singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne at the end of the month for his summer tour before breaking off for some solo shows. She said she's already written and recorded another album with her band, some 19 songs that should be released within a year.

But Carlile said what's next all depends on the reception of the album. She would like to do more symphony concerts.

The release and impending shows have sparked some pre-tour trepidation.

"I'm totally nervous, borderline terrified about the tour," she said. "But I'm right back where I need to be, and I'm excited."

Nick Visser: 206-464-3226 or nvisser@seattletimes.com

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