Gritty and visceral, Brandy Clark reaches for greatness

AP News
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Posted: Jun 07, 2016 11:32 AM
Gritty and visceral, Brandy Clark reaches for greatness

Brandy Clark, "Big Day In A Small Town" (Warner Bros.)

Brandy Clark isn't the first singer-songwriter to bring a smart feminist perspective to country music. Loretta Lynn sang defiantly about "The Pill" 40 years ago, well before her audience was ready for it. Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and many others have mined small-town American life from a woman's point of view for decades. More recently, Angaleena Presley and Kacey Musgraves have added important new voices to the conversation.

But with her latest album, "Big Day In A Small Town," Clark proves herself a worthy heir to Lynn's gritty, visceral legacy.

In songs that crackle with authenticity, Clark follows up her well-regarded 2013 debut, "12 Stories," with a voice that consistently rings true.

On the title cut, a girl's water breaks in geometry class, turning the mother who was nagging her about weight gain into a grandmother. On "Three Kids No Husband," she lauds the heroism of a woman balancing homework, a request to change the channel and a child's first heartbreak — all in startling juxtaposition.

"And the dishes in the sink ain't gonna wash themselves," she adds wearily.

Like Lynn's best work, Clark's songs leave no doubt that she has seen it all up close. And while the perspective is distinctly female, Clark has earned a spot among a handful of original new songwriters, including Presley, Musgraves, Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson, who offer fresh promise to a genre that has strained to find a bridge from Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and George Jones to something equally timeless.

Something smarter and deeper than being drunk and out of luck in a pickup truck. Something that couldn't sound much better if it had come straight from the mouth of a certain coal miner's daughter.