Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be 50 Essential Albums by LGBTQ Artists, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Considering that the qualifier “LGBTQ” can often be open to various interpretations, for the purposes of this particular list, we have defined an artist as LGBTQ if he, she or they have ever publicly identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer. Moreover, albums by groups have been included in the list if any of their members fit the aforementioned criteria, even if some members do not.
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BRANDI CARLILE | The Story
Selected by Mark J. Marraccini
Earlier this year at the GRAMMYs, Brandi Carlile blew the roof off of the Staples Center during her gorgeous, chill-inducing #shehastherange performance of “The Joke,” her 4-time Grammy nominated (and twice-winning) outcast anthem.
She walked away that night with three GRAMMY wins, including Best Americana Album for By The Way, I Forgive You. It was the end of a long road to finally achieving massive global awareness that began with Brandi’s 2007 breakthrough, The Story. This is the album that absolutely changed her career.
After Carlile’s confident, but safe, self-titled debut came and went without charting in 2005, Grammy-winning composer and producer T Bone Burnett was enlisted to produce her follow-up, The Story. It’s a remarkable collection of songs (penned by Carlile and her twin brother co-writers/bandmates Phil and Tim Hanseroth) that easily shifts between Americana (“Late Morning Lullaby”), torchy country (“Cannonball”), anthemic rock balladry (“The Story,” “My Song”), bluegrass (“Have You Ever”) and even a plucky folk hummer with slight gospel shading (“Josephine”). Burnett unchained her personality and unleashed her artistry on this album. Under his guidance, you can clearly hear how Patsy Cline and the Grand Ole Opry influenced her as a child.
You can tell Burnett really honored her powerful multi-hued vocal range, not hiding those moments when her voice crackles. All over the album he shined a spotlight on Carlile’s ability to cleanly accent the break between her lower and upper registers or effortlessly glide between them. He also let her absolutely wail on the title track—which, thankfully, got all of the attention when the album was released.
Around the time of The Story’s release in 2007, the album’s first single “The Story” was featured in a Grey’s Anatomy music video incorporating clips from the first three seasons of the hit TV show. That placement helped push the album from its #76 Billboard 200 album chart debut to #41 in its second week. In later seasons (7 and 14), the song would be featured again, but this time as a cover sung by actress Sara Ramirez who played “Callie Torres” on the show.
An activist herself (check out her Looking Out Foundation), in 2016 Brandi enlisted a multi-generational group of artists and activists including Jim James, Adele, Kris Kristofferson and Indigo Girls to re-record The Story for its tenth anniversary. In May 2017, Cover Stories was released as a charity album to benefit War Child UK, an organization dedicated to supporting and rehabilitating children affected by war. She even got Dolly Parton to cover “The Story”—I mean, seriously, how cool is that?