Brandy Clark is a country music treasure. She’s a stellar songwriter – one of the best in the business – and her vocals harken back to the ’90s greats like Trisha Yearwood and Martina McBride. She’s not afraid to hide her twang, and on top of that, it actually sounds genuine, not like a put-on to seem more “Southern.” Clark is a master at storytelling, and her last record 2013’s 12 Stories was hard evidence of that.
Needless to say, her follow-up has been highly anticipated and it does not disappoint. Big Day in a Small Town (out June 10 on Warner Bros.) is full of Clark’s signature moxie and her signature dark sense of humor.
There’s an honesty to Clark’s songwriting, even if some of it is fiction. Small towns seem to be Clark’s forte. With incredible deftness, she is able to tap into the nuances and details of this world – the small challenges that feel like the end of the world, the dead end roads, and both the dark and light sides of this bubble. Summing this up best is album opener “Soap Opera,” a bat-out-of-hell song with a gospel-style intro:
Ain’t we all the stars
playing the leading part
in our own soap opera?
On “Girl Next Door” she flips a tired cliché on its head, singing, “If you want the girl next door, than go next door.” Clark’s voice oozes brutal straightforwardness and authenticity in every single line, even when it’s not so flattering. “My house and my mouth and my mind get kinda trashy/I never been to jail, but hell I wouldn’t put it past me,” sings a badass, give-no-f***s Clark. Amen.
It’s refreshing to hear a powerful female voice in country music, particularly amidst the watered-down identity crisis state of the genre right now. Given that Big Day in a Small Town is Clark’s major label debut, she is clearly here to stay.
Clark’s truth-telling shines on gorgeous, shimmering ballads, too. “Three Kids, No Husband” explores the thanklessness of single motherhood, and the soulful “You Can Come Over” deep-dives into the importance of boundaries in a damaged relationship. “Homecoming Queen” is a cleverly written but sad portrait of life leaving you in the dust.
Though Clark does give into some familiar stereotypes of small town life, she breathes new life into them and breaks your heart while doing it.