Release Date: Oct 22, 2013
Record label: Smith Music Group
Genre(s): Country, Americana, Contemporary Country
Prior to the 2013 release of 12 Stories, Brandy Clark was known primarily as a songwriter, and a good one too. She had hits with Miranda Lambert ("Mama's Broken Heart"), LeAnn Rimes ("Crazy Women"), the Band Perry ("Better Dig Two"), and Kacey Musgraves ("Follow Your Arrow"), and 12 Stories reflects some of the same skills that brought her to the upper reaches of the charts. In her songs, Clark is tuneful and defiant, happily celebrating the virtues of weed and rebellion, but Clark never comes across as a redneck.
“The same stories unfold all over town,” Brandy Clark sings on “Illegitimate Children,” towards the end of her debut record. Those “same stories” — tales of quotidian struggle and unglamorous normalcy — are the types of narratives Clark is most interested in telling on 12 Stories, her first full-length release after a near decade of songwriting in Nashville. The simplicity in the title 12 Stories, a reference, perhaps, to J.D.
Part of the young Nashville cabal that includes Kacey Musgraves and unstoppable hit writer Shane McAnally, Brandy Clark is further proof of commercial country's sea change. Her debut is all airtight craftsmanship, sly wit and precise detailing that treats mainstream style like artisanal fast food. The best songs involve drugs ("Get High," "Take a Little Pill") and vengeful ladies with guns ("Stripes," "Crazy Women"), and even her schmaltz-flirting is impressive ("Hold My Hand").
This has been a great year for women's voices in contemporary country music, starting with the auspicious debut album from Kacey Musgraves in March and ramping up now with an even bolder new arrival, Brandy Clark. The question out of the gate is whether she'll be heard amid the parade of frat boy country dominating the airwaves with cliche-ridden songs of tailgate parties by the swimming hole populated with sexy babes in their Daisy Duke shorts. Never mind that — find this record and listen to a dozen dazzlingly witty and insightful takes on the struggles of the working class ("Pray to Jesus"), neglected and/or mistreated women ("Crazy Women," "The Day She Got Divorced"), the battle between right and wrong ("What'll Keep Me Out of Heaven") and the pros and cons of chemical mood enhancers ("Hungover," "Get High").