Brandy Clark is the epitome of country radio’s faults. Easily one of the best song writers in Nashville, penning tracks for the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert and David Nail, Brandy is a rare talent who doesn’t get the immense recognition she deserves. As she proved so wonderfully at C2C 2015, she also has one hell of a voice, and the material on her ’12 Stories’ album was some of the best to come out of country music for a very long time. Did it render any successful hits? Nope.
In January this year, Brandy released the lead single from her new album. ‘Girl Next Door’ peaked at #39 on the country airplay chart. Yes, it was her first top 40 hit, but still nowhere near where it deserved to be. Written with Jessie Jo Dillon and Shane McAnally, it’s a track full of attitude about a guy who claims to love a girl because she’s one thing, but deep down he wants the ‘girl next door’, something completely different. The instrumentation builds through the verse and hits you like a tonne of bricks in the chorus; a great track for Brandy’s live shows.
But there is far more to offer on the new album ‘Big Day In A Small Town’. A particular highlight is ‘Homecoming Queen’, a track that Sheryl Crow fans might recall from her ‘Feels Like Home’ album. Written by Brandy herself, this is a gorgeous track about getting older and being a mother taking its toll on a girl’s life. The ‘homecoming queen’ that she used to be is just a distant memory. “28, shouldn’t look this old but the last ten years sure took their toll on the girl in the picture with the plastic crown, that sequin dress wouldn’t fit her now like it did before the kids”. Intricately written and one that will resonate with many.
‘You Can Come Over’ is another highlight, a piano-backed delight that is just so simple yet so effective. It’s a showcase of Brandy’s truly incredible vocal ability; one of those songs where you have to sit for a moment afterwards to take it all in. The beauty of Brandy’s music is the simplicity; she has a wonderful knack of making you feel so much purely from her delivery.
This is followed by ‘Love Can Go To Hell’, a real masterclass in songwriting. “Love can go to hell like roses in a vase of whiskey”…what a brilliant line! Brandy gives credit to producer Jay Joyce for bringing this track to life – “It was way more of a ballad originally and he brought an energy to it that I never envisioned. That song more than any song on the record blows my mind with what Jay brought to it”. Upon hearing the title, you would assume it’s written from a position of anger and hopelessness, however the song is actually about love falling apart which gives it so much depth. Stunning.
However, the best of the best is ‘Three Kids No Husband’, co-written with Lori McKenna who needs no introduction. When these two get in a room, something special is bound to come out of it. As a listener you really become so wrapped up in the woman’s struggle; she finds herself almost in a black hole that she can’t escape from, pushing herself through the daily grind with three children and no support from elsewhere. It almost brought me to tears with the first listen, it really is that good. Lyrically, it’s in another league to most country radio favourites.
‘Since You’ve Gone To Heaven’ is also definitely worthy of a mention. For anybody who has lost a family member or close friend, this one will really tug at the heartstrings. “Since you’ve gone to heaven, the whole world’s gone to hell”. I mentioned earlier how Brandy can create such powerful feelings with ease – this is another perfect example. Nothing more than a few notes on a guitar and Brandy’s voice is all that is required to create a real powerhouse of emotions.
It would take too long to rattle on about every track on the album, but in all honesty this album is superb from start to finish. When I heard ‘12 Stories’ for the first time, it was clear Brandy had something special, but her second project has taken the standard up another level. Aspiring country song writers, look no further than Brandy for a lesson in how to write touching, infectious songs that take you away to another place for a moment. Definitely a contender for album of the year already.