Brandy Clark’s latest album, the self-titled Brandy Clark, is a lyrical and cinematic music delight offering relatable storytelling reminiscent of decades of iconic women in music. On this most personal and stripped back album from Clark, the sun (the Grammy-winning producer Brandi Carlile) shines high above Washington’s Mount Rainer to spotlight Clark’s vocal similarity to those of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Trisha Yearwood and Crystal Gale.
Clark breathes an insightful songwriting superpower, whether writing for and with others (Kacey Musgraves, The Band Perry, Reba McEntire) or for herself on the four original albums released since the debut of 12 Stories in 2014. And who else would co-write (with Shane McAnally) a critically acclaimed Broadway musical (Shucked)? Maybe Dolly Parton.
It’s always a giddy experience listening to new music from C2C alumnus Clark, and re-listening to the killer stories she shares (Stripes) but her fifth studio album is next level beauty. Carlile has the Midas touch in music, in the rock, pop and country worlds and Clark didn’t hesitate to agree on recording an album together with her fellow Washington-state songwriter. Carlile’s vocals feature on the hugely impactful ‘Dear Insecurity’, a shared ballad acknowledging the imposter syndrome we all feel from time to time. The piano track sounds like it was made for the big screen. Imagine a 70s Streisand theme song and you’re halfway there.
The rockiest, most uptempo and revengeful song on the album, opens the eleven tracks, ‘Ain’t Enough Rocks’, featuring Derek Trucks on guitar. The song almost acts as a gateway between Clark’s previous story-based albums and the next ten songs; this is a narrative, this is my narrative.
Lead single, the spine-tingling lost-yet-forever-love ballad ‘Buried’ follows, a tale of dealing with heartbreak and at the same time acknowledging you’ll never be over that kind of love. Clark shows the beauty in pain.
Indie band Lucius provide vocals on “Tell Her You Don’t Love Her”, a haunting song from the perspective of being that friend watching someone going through a breakup. Clean break, not a fractured existence, please.
Two further songs have been shared on social media this spring in the pre-release marketing campaign; the uptempo hometown song ‘Northwest’ also featuring Carlile, and the grandmamma-reminiscing ‘She Smoked In The House’. Both are on-repeat worthy. I know, I’ve been hitting the button.
‘Come Back To Me’, co-written (with McAnally and Trevor Rosen) for Keith Urban’s 2013 Fuse album makes a welcome appearance, with the same positive-thinking that made Follow Your Arrow the CMA Song Of The Year in 2014; do what you have to, where you have to, then return home. Is there a greater love?
However, my favourite track is the stunning ‘Up Above The Clouds’ (Cecilia’s Song) Clark’s crystal vocals and enigmatic guitar offering a ballad of hope after sadness or grief with the lyrics, “even in the rain/when your blue eyes are crying/because love has let you down/when a fool’s dream is dying/the sunshine has all run out/remember there’s a blue sky up above the clouds.” Imagine Eva Cassidy’s interpretation of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and you’re halfway there.
Brandy Clark was one of the most difficult albums for me to write a review for; I kept drifting away in the music and forgetting how to type full sentences. I also kept falling into Clark’s incredible back catalogue, as well as those of Chapin Carpenter, who Clark will tour with this summer in the US. Imagine this tour in the UK between two American songwriting legends?
Clark will appear at The Black Deer Festival this June.
|Tracklist: 1. Ain’t Enough Rocks (Feat. Derek Trucks) 2. Buried 3. Tell Her You Don’t Love Her (Feat. Lucius) 4. Dear Insecurity (Feat. Brandi Carlile) 5. Come Back to Me 6. Northwest 7. She Smoked in the House 8. Up Above the Clouds (Cecilia’s Song) 9. All Over Again 10. Best Ones 11. Take Mine Record Label: Warner Records Release Date: May 19th Buy’ Brandy Clark’ now|