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ALBUM REVIEW: Brandy Clark – ‘Your Life Is A Record’



Brandy Clark’s long-time co-writer Shane McAnally said it best on Instagram:

“The best story teller I’ve known, and her subtle elegance and poetic timelessness is perfectly captured on her 3rd record. It is truly a masterpiece. Every moment, every note, every word feels like it’s always been there…like someone you meet and you swear you’ve known them before because you feel instantly connected”

There’s a timelessness and authentic quality to everything Brandy Clark does. Her two previous albums, ‘12 Stories’ and ‘Big Day In A Small Town’ were two of the greatest country releases of the last decade, without ever garnering mainstream attention. She’s without a doubt one of the most talented songwriters of our generation; the world just hasn’t quite realised yet.

With her brand new album, ‘Your Life Is A Record’, Brandy has experimented with a much more orchestral, acoustic sound; lots of delicate, beautifully-crafted melodies with plenty of string accompaniments. It suits her style to a tee, prioritising her utterly flawless vocals and as ever, the focus is on the sublime quality of the heart-wrenching storytelling.

One aspect that’s fairly obvious is the lack of country radio-friendly material, which is certainly more a criticism of country radio than the album itself. Speaking to NPR about the ‘Big Day In A Small Town’ album, Brandy said:

“I admittedly was very heartbroken that it didn’t fare better on the charts. I had supporters at country radio, but not enough to get beyond about 39. That was one of the bigger heartbreaks of my life. So I kind of had to throw that idea out the window, like, OK, maybe that’s not going to be the lane that my music travels down.”

With that in mind, Brandy went into the studio with production genius, Jay Joyce, and challenged him to only cut with acoustic instruments. In stepped Giles Reaves (percussion and piano), and Jedd Hughes (strings), and the creative process began. The result is an 11-song collection that epitomises Nashville songcraft at its very best, cementing Brandy Clark as one of the genre’s finest.

‘Your Life Is A Record’ is also Brandy’s most personal collection to date, often reflecting on the breakup of a 15-year relationship. The gorgeous opener, ‘I’ll Be The Sad Song’, sets the scene of being in the moving-on phase, accepting that it didn’t quite work out in the end but the time spent together will always have a special place in the heart. In between ‘I’ll Be The Sad Song’ and the stunning final track, ‘The Past Is The Past’, Brandy gives us all the different emotions and mindsets that go with a relationship, from the adulate, playful ‘Who You Thought I Was’ to the regretful ‘Apologies’, which is perhaps the most commercially-viable offering on the album production-wise.

‘Pawn Shop’ and ‘Bad Car’ are the album’s stand-out tracks, purely for the stunning ability to transform common occurrences into such heart-wrenching, relatable emotions. The former tells the tale of a wedding ring and a guitar being handed into a pawn shop, ready to “start a new dream, second hand”. It makes you think about every day items that probably wouldn’t mean a whole lot to anyone else, but hold deeply personal memories for yourself, and the emotions you’d feel having to give them away to somebody else. Similarly, ‘Bad Car’ takes an old, beat-up piece of junk and turns it into a memory bank; a car that’s seen the best and worst moments of someone’s life over the years. Most of us have had that experience of letting go of a car, and there’s always an element of sadness, no matter what state it’s in.

“It knows more of my secrets than I’ll ever tell.
So to keep from crying, as they tow it away, I tell myself…
I know it’s a bad car, I know it’s a piece of junk.
I know the best tyre on it is in the trunk”

It wouldn’t be a Brandy Clark album without its sassier moments, however. Songs like ‘Daughter’ and ‘Broke’ have become fan favourites for their attitude and girl power, and Brandy hasn’t disappointed here in that regard. ‘Long Walk’ is her best ‘f*** you’ anthem to date, with one of the most funny, cleverly written choruses in recent memory. Co-writers Jessie Jo Dillon and Jesse Frasure came up with a real gem, here.

“Take a long walk off a real short pier
Take a cinder block with you as a souvenir
I hope you sink like the shade of stones that you’ve been throwing
I hear it’s cold as you at the bottom of the ocean”

If there’s someone in your life you’d like to dedicate a song like that to, it really doesn’t get much better! ‘Who Broke Whose Heart’ also showcases Brandy’s more confident side, having moved on from the relationship, looking back with a clear mind and optimism for the future.

“Who broke whose heart?
Who made who cry?
Who really cares ’bout the reasons why
We said goodbye, is anybody’s guess
All I know is I loved you
So f*** the rest”

Albums of this quality don’t come around too often, and should be valued. ‘Your Life Is A Record’ isn’t an album that will get much recognition from awards shows and from country radio. It’s an album that further cements the incredible legacy Brandy Clark will leave, and be able to look back on at the end of her career with immense pride. This will be a tough one to beat in 2020 – fellow country artists, here’s your marker.

Dan Wharton

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