by Chuck Dauphin
Ok, I don’t think I have ever started a review so simply in my decade-plus of writing them. But, sometimes, you can say a lot more with less than you can otherwise. I think you get the idea about where this review might be headed with that explanation. Brandy Clark has developed a reputation as one of Nashville’s top songwriters, scoring a CMA Song of the Year nod for her contributions to “Mama’s Broken Heart.” She also enjoyed chart-topping success as a writer of The Band Perry’s massive hit “Better Dig Two.” But, there is another side to the Washington native. She’s a fine artist in her own right. Well, ok, she’s a little better than fine!
Clark has put together quite the album – one that has a lot of people within the industry buzzing. That’s with good reason, as she writes and sings like nobody else that has come along lately. She’s definitely in a league with acts like Kacey Musgraves (her co-writer on “Mama’s Broken Heart”) and Ashley Monroe, who have seen their share of critical acclaim this year. While she is very much adept at writing contemporary material, there’s a spirit to this project that brings to mind the best of Loretta, Dolly, or Tammy, with a slice of Bobbie Gentry-style Southern Goth thrown in for good measure.
Kicking off with the melodic “Pray To Jesus,” you can tell that Clark is not afraid of being traditional. Some might feign a little bit of shock and horror at the lyrics (After all, she mentions praying and playing the lottery in the same breath!…Unheard of in small towns!), but there’s such an irreverence to the track – combined with the stirring instrumental work that you will be drawn in by the second verse.
Once she’s off and running, she only gets better. “What’ll Keep Me Out Of Heaven” isn’t just a highlight of the album – it’s a Country Music highlight for 2013. You might call it a cheating song, but in all actuality, the cheating hasn’t happened yet. It seems that the lead character in the song has a dilemma. Does she enter the hotel where forbidden fruit awaits her – or resist the temptation? In classic country style, the song leaves it up to the listener, and the mystery is so alluring. It’s the kind of song that Lee Ann Womack would have knocked into the stratosphere.
Other highlights on the disc include the yearning lyrics of “Hold My Hand,” where she’s pleading with her man to give her the attention she needs at a moment where she has to have the understanding and love. There’ the old school loneliness of “In Some Corner,” where she shows her Trisha Yearwood influence – but make no mistake, Brandy Clark is her own artist – and then some. “Illegitimate Children” and “The Day She Got Divorced” are both songs that few others would write these days. The former features some humorous lines, and the latter details the nonchalant way a divorcee embraces her new-found freedom.
Two more tracks worth noting are “Take A Little Pill,” which tells of the struggles that many have with addictions to pain pills. Again, credit Clark here, as few would have the gut to approach a song in such a stark and serious manner. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is the attitude-driven “Stripes,” where she reveals that her only reason for not doing away with a cheating lover is her being so….fashion conscious. “There’s no crime of passion worth a crime of passion,” she warns. It’s one that will leave you smiling – albeit with one eye looking behind you!
With 12 Stories, Clark has assembled an album that has the potential to stand beside such landmark female collections as There’s More Where That Came From or Whoever’s In New England. Trust me, that’s not hype. That’s the truth. If you miss traditional sounds with lyrics that are designed to make you think, get this CD. You can send me a thank you card later!
For more information, log on to www.BrandyClarkMusic.com
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