Album Review: Brandy Clark - 12 Stories

With 12 Stories Brandy Clark debuts with an album that is refreshingly not aiming directly at the hook-y, sing-a-long mainstream (though it has hooks-a-plenty and sing-a-long moments). Instead, we get a distinctive, witty, and charming debut album from the well-known songwriter.

Possessing a voice that recalls Mary Chapin Carpenter, Suzy Bogguss, Kathy Mattea and Trisha Yearwood at different points on 12 Stories, Clark is a unique talent in that she writes songs that are classic and contemporary all at the same time. "Pray To Jesus" is one such song. While it might be seen as blasphemous to people who take songs about Jesus 'literal," what Brandy is instead doing is performing about the realities for much of middle America; Their situation to get better will happen through prayer or through lotto and not likely any other way.  Meanwhile "Crazy Women" (a song LeAnn Rimes recorded a couple of years ago), tells the story of how such women are created (by crazy men) whereas "Get High" joins the list of contemporary songs which discuss getting 'high' on marijuana. The song is really about figuring out a way to navigate through the craziness that is/can be life.  

"Hold My Hand" is a stunning classic torch ballad about that part of every relationship -- particularly for women -- when they come across their new beau's ex and the very raw and real feeling that comes from those moments. Vocally, this is one case which screams Trisha Yearwood and if not a hit for Clark herself, I can totally see Trisha wanting to cut this one in the future.  "Stripes" was/is the lead single for 12 Stories and it's easy to see why. With a funky, haunting melody, the song tells a story that finds a woman wanting to get revenge on a cheating husband but the only reason for not doing it is a vain one: "there's no crime of passion worth the crime of fashion/the only thing saving your life is I don't look good in orange and I hate stripes". 

Stone cold country balladry is alive and well on "In Some Corner" while a more 'contemporary' Suzy Bogguss-like "What'll Keep Me Out Of Heaven" presents the real issues many feel when compelled to leave their dull marriage or to to letting go of that to be with someone else. "Take A Little Pill" tells the story of modern, legal substance abuse." It's real and honest and certainly something that many people are doing these days to live their lives.  "The Day She Got Divorced" tells the very real story that anyone whose been through divorce will relate to. It isn't the monumental day people feel it is, it's just another day in the life. 

"Hungover" is a story about a woman realizing that she doesn't need to continue to be with a drunk. Finally, we have "Illegitimate Children" and "Just Like Him." The former is a fun little song about girls who go out and get wild and end up with, well, children born that aren't from the relationship they're in. The latter song is about that very real situation where people end up falling into love with people that are like their parents, no matter how hard they try NOT to do that. 

12 Stories is a fantastic album. The kind of album that deserves to be listened to over and over again and without a shadow of a doubt, one of the strongest albums of 2013 and of any album released in this new century. There's not one throw away track, one throw away note, or one throw away lyric. Instead, it's a well-made and produced and definitely worth seeking out.

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