REVIEW: Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile

Despite being familiar with Brandi Carlile’s music, her new book Broken Horses took me by surprise. Generally, I would expect memoirs by artists to be enjoyable, perhaps gratuitous, for fans, but Broken Horses is, I daresay, of a different breed. It is impressive in its wisdom and authenticity, and a book that I would recommend regardless of whether the reader has listened to Carlile’s music.

The book chronicles Carlile’s life and development as an artist through present-day, and is punctuated by song lyrics (Carlile’s, as well as other songs and artists mentioned in the prose, including the Indigo Girls, Elton John, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and others) and annotated photos. It is part narrative and part introspection, and it is self-deprecating, humorous, and raw.  The cast of characters is extensive, anchored in the center by Carlile’s musical “family,” including her bandmembers Phil and Tim, her wife, Catherine, and two daughters.  It is a vivid portrait of a human being who also happens to be a GRAMMY-winning singer-songwriter.

Broken Horses also traverses a wide range of themes in its three hundred pages: family, friendship, sexuality, religion, forgiveness, and many others. Carlile offers her thoughts and experience of each, without pretending to have all the answers. One of my favorite passages in the entire book is in relation to the genesis of the 2018 album By the Way, I Forgive You. In addition to its insight (even in its admission of lack of insight), it also, in my opinion, captures the essence of Broken Horses as a whole:

“Before I start sounding too earnest, understand that I wasn’t “teaching” forgiveness. I was and still am learning it. I’m not evolved. I’m as much a part of the problem as every other person in the world. This isn’t wisdom or insight, it’s a work in progress and it never did come from me. It came from our parents and grandparents. Our flawed heroes and our favorite TV shows. We were just playing dress-up and trying forgiveness on like a costume. We intend to learn these lessons over and over again the hard way for as long as we’re human. If you want the real thing 100 percent pure, the Everclear …you should talk to Lazarus.”

-Brandi Carlile, Broken Horses (2021), Chapter 17: By The Way

Quite fittingly, I would describe Broken Horses as a song above anything else (which makes sense, considering the author). It is a song of the human experience, and one that is not to be missed.

PREVIEW: Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile

If you are a fan of the music of GRAMMY Award-winning singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, you won’t want to miss out on her new memoir, Broken Horses. Released in April 2021, the book recounts the events that have shaped her life thus far, as well as her path to becoming the musician that she is today.

Hardcover copies of Broken Horses can be purchased from your local bookstore (such as Literati if you’re in Ann Arbor) or checked out from your local library.

REVIEW: The War and Treaty Livestream

Husband and wife musical duo The War and Treaty, comprised of Michael and Tanya Trotter, presented a livestream last weekend that was a musical bright spot in today’s internet landscape. Performed real-time from their living room in front of a cozy stone fireplace, the evening also featured Max Brown on bass (who is originally from Ann Arbor!!) and Bam Holmes on drums.

The program, which seemed to be decided in the moment (which was especially refreshing, given that so many performances are pre-recorded given the current circumstances), included songs from The War and Treaty’s most recent album, Hearts Town, as well as new and never-before-performed songs written since the onset of the pandemic. Indeed, they noted that they have created tens of new songs in the last year, which is good news for fans of The War and Treaty hoping for new music in the coming months.

The performance itself reflected the times that we are living in – restless with everything being through a screen – and yet, it was also overwhelmingly joyous. On multiple occasions, the duo remarked on the loss of live, in-person performances, and especially of missing hugging fans. However, even through the computer, traces of these connections were palpable, in the Trotter’s clear love of the music (and in the active chat during the performance).

The War and Treaty’s music transcends categorization, fusing jazz, soul, folk, blues, and other influences into a result that is a treat for the ears. During the livestream, I was particularly struck by each song’s ability to conjure an atmosphere, in which even watching alone at home, the music brought the sights and sounds of long road trips, or crowded restaurants, or gatherings with friends into view in my mind’s eye. Perhaps it was just the fact that these scenes seem like distant memories a year into the pandemic, but it was nevertheless fascinating to me how on multiple occasions, listening to the music transported me out of my physical space and into seemingly far-off places.

My only disappointment regarding the livestream was that at just an hour long, it was on the shorter side for a ticketed performance – good, perhaps, for the screen fatigued, but a little sad given that I was enjoying the excellent music!

Overall, The War and Treaty put on a great virtual concert, and I would recommend their music to anyone who is not yet familiar with it! I hope that someday, when it is safe again, I will be able to experience their music live and in person.

PREVIEW: The War and Treaty Livestream

Join musical duo The War and Treaty for a livestreamed virtual concert on Saturday, March 20 at 8pm EDT!

The War and Treaty, which is comprised of husband and wife Michael Trotter, Jr. and Tanya Blount, is originally from Albion, Michigan. They defy the boundaries of genre, and their sound is a blends folk, blues, gospel, and other musical influences. The War and Treaty also performed at the 44th Ann Arbor Folk Fest, and I am especially excited for this concert after their awesome performance there!

Tickets are available at Additionally, to learn more about The War and Treaty, visit

PREVIEW: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Newly released this year, Kristin Hannah’s novel The Four Winds has already garnered critical acclaim and a place on bestseller lists. It is a story of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and of America and difficult choices. I am particularly excited to read this new book because I enjoy a good historical fiction novel.

Check out The Four Winds from your local library, or if you would like to purchase a copy, visit your local book store. In Ann Arbor, The Four Winds can be found at Literati Bookstore (where it recently earned the distinction of Staff Pick).

Happy reading!


REVIEW: My Folky Valentine

The Ark’s “annual celebration of romance,” My Folky Valentine, had a different look this year due to the ongoing pandemic, but it did not dampen the spirit of the performance. Hosted by Annie and Rod Capps, the show also featured musical couples Catherine Miles & Jay Mafale and Robin & Jenny Bienemann.

The performance’s format was not what I expected but was nevertheless very effective, and in some ways catered to the virtual nature of the show. Rather than each duo performing an uninterrupted set, the show was completed in “rounds,” during which each couple played one song. This pattern was then repeated several times for the duration of the evening. In an environment where many are suffering from Zoom fatigue and a general attention deficit when it comes to looking at screens, this kept the show engaging and was a welcome departure from other virtual performances.

Most of the songs were written by the performers, except for the round in which it was designated that each duo would cover a song that was not original to them. Perhaps the most entertaining result of this round was a very unlikely mashup of “Rubber Ducky” (yes, the one from Sesame Street) and the jazz standard “All of Me,” performed by Robin and Jenny Bienemann. It was an understated rendition of the two songs that was unexpected, theatrical, and tongue-in-cheek, and as a result, extremely hilarious. During the same round, Catherine Miles and Jay Mafale performed “At Last,” and Annie and Rod Capps covered “My Funny Valentine,” the showtune-turned-jazz standard that the event’s title was a nod to. I found this round of covers particularly enjoyable because it included folk renditions of popular jazz tunes, and I appreciated the inventive ways in which the performers paid homage to the original songs while molding them into a new style.

Of course, the original songs were also a highlight of the evening, as the performers’ skills as singer-songwriters were on full display. Like my experience at the Ann Arbor Folk Fest, I was happy to find new music to listen to because of this online event, and I highly recommend anyone interested in folk music check out the work of all three of the duos featured at My Folky Valentine!

The show’s finale was a prerecorded and produced performance of “The Glory of True Love” by the late John Prine, featuring all three couples singing and playing together apart, courtesy of the magic of technology.

If you missed My Folky Valentine, it (as well as other past performances from The Ark Family Room Series) is available for viewing at