Don’t hate me. I have never been a huge fan of traditional country music. I avoid country stations and playlists at all cost. I can hear a twang or smell a hat within seconds of a song start.
So imagine my surprise when a Facebook friend, upon my request for recommendations, turned me on to Kasey Musgraves (a past contestant from Nashville Star no less). I loved her. Uh oh. Then veteran A&R and music publisher Molly Kaye, told me about Brandy Clark and because I’ve known and trusted Molly for over twenty years I checked her out too. And now, I can’t get enough of this lady. Brandy. Not Molly. (Although, I love Molly too.)
I’m no critic. Nor do I aim to be one. I merely want to share my enthusiasm when I hear something remarkable and when I’m a little embarrassed for having clumped everything country together—as if all pop music is either good or bad. Shame on me.
So, here goes…
It’s not just about her single. Whatever that was—I have no idea. And it’s not about two songs or a few songs. Call me crazy—I accessed and listened to the whole album (12 Stories)…start to finish…and was engaged throughout. Then I listened to it again while floating in a pool, and again while cooking dinner, and again driving up the coast. When was the last time I fell in love with a whole album?
It’s no wonder that I liked Kacey’s record too. On her Wiki page I saw that Brandy co-wrote four tracks on her most recent album. She also penned songs with and for Miranda Lambert. Apparently Brandy was a working class songwriter before she was a recording artist. Interesting. I wonder how it might affect music at large if being a working class songwriter were a prerequisite for making a record of ones own.
Brandy tells me things that I already know but haven’t thought about in a while. She takes me to places and reminds me I’ve been there too. She frames stories in different lights as opposed to chasing repetitive messages on mainstream playlists.
In “Hungover”—Brandy (as far as I’m concerned we’re on a first name basis now) makes me remember the time I Iost a guy to something—either drink or drugs or merely his ambivalence toward me after much time spent together—when I had all the hurt I could handle and had no choice but to get my sh*t together. Of course as soon as I did, he was ready to rock. It was too late. Girls, you know the story.
In “Hold My Hand”—she has me remembering feeling vulnerable and needing re-assurance upon meeting a new boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend and sensing he wasn’t quite over her yet. (Oooh…that’s a nice title…”My New Boyfriend’s Ex-Girlfriend.” Give me 10% if you write it, please.)
In “What’ll Keep Me Out Of Heaven”—she reminds me of the hope, the guilt, the lust, the excitement from being on the verge of "unfaithful"…(Honey, if you’re reading this, it was way before us).
In “Just Like Him”—well, I never had a father who let me down. But this song lets me understand the pain of those who have.
Brandy makes me remember why I started writing songs in the first place. It was personal. I did it to serve myself. I wasn’t putting words in someone else’s mouth…although I actually don’t mind doing that. It’s just that after doing it for so long sometimes I forget what I want to say.
She makes me wonder what would have been if I’d made my own record.
She makes me regret not taking guitar lessons.
She has me wishing I was capable of writing just one of those songs on her album.
So maybe I’ve flip flopped about country music. Or, perhaps I’m simply drawn to a Thinking Woman’s songs no matter what the genre—to songs I can tell were written in a room with a few like minds. Maybe I’m starved for songs that have depth. Maybe (actually, this one is not a maybe) I’m a more mature listener than I used to be and in a youth driven market it’s not as easy to find material I can relate to.
So forgive me, country. I am reassessing. There are mediocre songs and remarkable songs (and artists) on every station (or streaming sevice). As long as you talk to me right, I’m with you.
Check out Brandy Clark. I highly doubt you’ll regret it.
Plus, she reminds me of someone I know.
Thanks for reading! Please click here to receive this blog via email.