Brandy Clark knows songwriting. She gets that it’s not about jumping on the latest trends, or using buzz-worthy slang, sounds or any of that nonsense. It’s about the ability to relay tales of the human condition, even when that reflection isn’t necessarily based on personal experience. Much like acclaimed songwriter Lori McKenna, Clark can tap into the souls of the characters they sing and write about.
Clark’s brilliance as a songwriter has been etched on albums by Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Jennifer Nettles and Sunny Sweeney. Her writing also shined on her highly acclaimed 2013 debut album 12 Stories. The tales she tells of small-town living and the people who reside there are nothing short of brilliant slices of Americana.
As Clark is ready to release her second album Big Day In A Small Town, the singer/songwriter brought her show to Maryland’s small town capital Annapolis for a matinee show at Rams Head On Stage on June 4.
In 75 minutes, Clark packed in 17 songs, of which nine will appear on her new album, and if they sound half as good on record as they did live, it’s safe to say Big Day In A Small Town is a contender for Album of the Year.
Clark and her pink Fender guitar took the stage with her driving four-piece band and opened with the country groover “Soap Opera” before nailing her sassy first single “Stripes.” And I can assure you she wasn’t wearing orange or stripes.
The title track of her new album was a slinky guitar driven tune about the “talk” that happens in a small town. They smartly merged the song into John Mellencamp’s “Small Town.”
Clark has a dark sense of humor in her songs and it couldn’t be more apparent than on another new tune “Broke” where she sings “Not enough apples for this apple pie” and “we’re sitting on the porch drinking generic Coke, we’re broke.”
Heartache was the theme for the next couple songs as she played “You Can Come Over” where she passionately sings “You can come over, but you can’t come in” and “you stay long enough to leave me again.” The title says it all for the next song “Love Can Go To Hell.”
At this point, it was time for the first single off the new album “Girl Next Door.” On record, it has a more radio friendly sound, live though, it was so much more powerful and gritty.
Clark let her band take a breather and went solo acoustic for the stunning “Three Kids No Husband” which may be one of the most honest songs about the struggles of a single mom that I’ve ever heard. She followed it up with her most “known” song, made famous by Miranda Lambert, “Mama’s Broken Heart,” which to be honest, sounds so much realer coming out of Clark and her acoustic guitar.
During the show she paid tribute to two of her biggest influences playing Buck Owens’ “Together Again” and George Strait’s “That Wasn’t My Chair After All” (which ended up closing out the show).
Clark claimed to be the singer of revenge songs, and well, this new one, “Daughter” is the “ultimate revenge song.” It’s country and western through and through and when she sings “If Karma’s a bitch I hope you have a daughter,” it had the crowd hootin’ and hollerin’.
A definite WOW moment occurred when Clark hit the chorus of the acoustically driven new song “Drinkin’ Smokin’ Cheatin’.” This song is written at a completely different level of cleverness. Each word in the title has its own verse/theme. Simply amazing.
Clark closed out the set with four tracks from 12 Stories, the tender “Hold My Hand,” the playful “Get High,” the saucy “Crazy Women,” and the sauced “Hungover.”
After briefly leaving the stage Clark and her band returned for the aforementioned Strait cover and “Pray To Jesus” to the delight of the nearly packed venue.
Brandy Clark is a modern throwback to songwriters who take pride in storytelling. She’s also a dynamic singer who emotes every word like it’s her last…and does it with an illuminating smile that lets us all know that everything is going to be OK.