The last few years there has been a quiet sea change in Music Row. The change toward song craft spearheaded by young women speaking to a larger audience of older country fans that prefer Kristofferson over Keith. And a younger audience that want to imagine themselves in the songs. All while adroitly straddling the worlds of rigid country music industry pressures and Americana free range creativity. Call them the anti-Taylors.
Add to this movement Brandy Clark’s debut, “12 Stories.” Clark has scrubbed behind the scenes for years spinning hits for contemporary female upstarts Miranda Lambert, as well as other music row heavy-hitters The Band Perry, Reba McEntire and, Darius Rucker.
As the title says, these are 12 co-penned gems of savvy working class narratives. Very much in the spirit of Kacey Musgraves’ newest, which Clark co-wrote several songs on. The daily struggles of a common life (the hazy groover “Pray to Jesus”) cheating and revenge (“Crazy Women,” “Stripes”) a new take on this medication nation (“Take A Little Pill”) and a bluegrass tinged herbal testament to the Book of Willie (“Get High.”) A Sunday morning, hymn-organ ode to Sunday morning and new beginnings (“Hungover.)
Clark’s tales of contemporary working class echoes those told by Cash, Haggard Dolly and Loretta decades ago. “12 Stories” reminds us of the poetry and emotion that Hank Sr. embodied and lays bare how great country music can still exist when an artist can resist country radio cliches.