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”).
Clark wrote or co-wrote all 12 of these songs with the feistiness of Loretta Lynn and the songwriting gift of Dolly Parton. Just listen to “Stripes,” in which she catches her philandering partner in bed — hers — with someone else, but decides against squeezing the trigger of the loaded pistol in her hand because “I don’t look good in orange, and I hate stripes.” Boys, now that’s a great country song. This is the country debut of the year.
Three and a half stars (out of four)