Having written some of the best-known songs in Country music over the last decade, Brandy Clark deserves to be one of the biggest female stars in the genre. She’s written for the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Sheryl Crow, Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban, yet as an artist in her own right she’s still waiting for that big breakthrough. One of the only openly gay artists in Country music, Clark is managing to gain ground in an industry that isn’t all that open to play gay artists on the radio. Her debut album 12 Stories sold moderately well and was showered in praise. Earlier this year Clark released her second album Big Day in a Small Town, and it’s finally arrived here in the UK.
Big Day in a Small Town is Clark’s first release since signing to Warner Bros. The album has peaked at number 8 on the US Country chart and at number 2 here in the UK. Working with producer Jay Joyce, Clark has crafted an album featuring 11 songs that’s rich with classic storytelling. Two of the tracks included here – Homecoming Queen and You Can Come Over – have been recorded by Sheryl Crow and Craig Campbell respectively prior to Clark including them on this album.
Anyone who has hard any of Clark’s songs, or her debut album, will know that she’s an incredibly gifted lyricist with a knack for small-town observation and biting social commentary. The album opens with Soap Opera, which tells the stories of hairdresser Sherry and bartender Jimmy. Clark likens real life to a soap opera singing ‘ain’t we all the stars, playing the leading part, in our own soap opera’ and her observations are pretty accurate.
Lead single Girl Next Door is a starkly honest track where Clark explains that she’s anything but the perfect housewife stereotype. During the song she admits to have a trashy mouth and doesn’t rule out a spell in prison at some point. It’s a slice of reality that’s rarely heard with most songs offering the perfect perspective of love, helping to falsely create an ideal that doesn’t really exist.
Elsewhere on the record Clark puts an end to a vicious destructive relationship on the beautiful You Can Come Over, Three Kids No Husband tells the tale of struggling single mother, and the quirky Broke almost makes being penniless fun. Kacey Musgraves provides backing vocals on the jaunty Daughter where Clark wishes a man has a daughter so he can understand the terrible way some men treat women.
The finest moments on the album come on the heartbreak anthem Love Can Go to Hell and closing track Since You’ve Gone to Heaven, which is an ode to Clark’s late father.
Big Day in a Small Town is so full of rich storytelling and it’s exactly the kind of music that is sorely missing from the modern Country charts. There is real heart in these songs and Clark has a distinctive vocal that delivers everything with passion and meaning. By rights she should be one of the most celebrated artists in Country music right now and I sincerely hope that she continues to break boundaries and build on her already amazing success.
Track Listing: 1. Soap Opera 2. Girl Next Door 3. Homecoming Queen 4. Broke 5. You Can Come Over 6. Love Can Go to Hell 7. Big Day in a Small Town 8. Three Kids No Husband 9. Daughter 10. Drinkin’ Smokin’ Cheatin’ 11. Since You’ve Gone to Heaven Record Company: Warner Bros Release Date: 23rd September 2016