It’s quite canny and revelatory that Brandy Clark’s fourth studio album—2020’s Your Life is a Record is her most recent—is eponymous. Clark has already established herself as one of roots music’s most brilliant and canny songwriters—“What’ll Keep Me Out of Heaven” from her 2013 album 12 Stories is one of the best cheating songs ever written—but the very title of her new album reveals the candor and vulnerability that imbues every story she tells in these songs.
The album launches with a good old murder ballad, “Ain’t Enough Rocks,” in the vein of the Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” and Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” Derek Trucks’ slide guitar animates Clark’s ingenious lyrics of two sisters who, sexually abused by their father, kill him and throw his body into the Cumberland River, “wrapped in a bedroom rug” to which they tie some river stone. As she sings, with producer Brandi Carlile howling in the background vocals over Trucks’ screaming slide, the singer insists that even though the “right amount of limestone” is enough to keep a “certain kind of problem” at the bottom of the river, “there ain’t enough rocks/to drown that pain.”
Gently fingerpicked guitars circle around each other on “Buried,” a wistful ode to the enduring power of yearning love in the face of one partner’s rejection of the other. Even as the singer vows that she will do everything she can—“fly myself to France,” “paint the floor to ceiling blue”—to forget her lover doesn’t want or love her anymore, the song’s final line offers the typical Clark twist: “But I’ll love you ‘til I’m buried.”
Flowing along Carlile’s supple piano chords, Clark and Carlile trade vocals on the gorgeous chamber folk ballad “Dear Insecurity,” a heartfelt letter requesting insecurity to leave the singer alone and not to mess up her life and love. The propulsive “Northwest” is a ringing love song to the beauty of and longing for Clark’s home in Washington state, while “She Smoked in the House” is Clark’s loving tribute to her grandmother: “I hate cigarettes/But I miss all that smoke/That my grandma blew/Back when I grew up/With her and that radio.”
The album closes with the cinematic “Take Mine,” a testament to the love that endures beyond the ravages of loss. Clark’s vocals soar over a lilting Wurlitzer: “When love, love was all I needed/God knows you gave me yours/So take mine/Take mine.”
The songs on Brandy Clark probe deeply into the wiles of the human heart, peering into its darkest corners where despair and hopelessness dwell, looking into the shadows inhabited by yearning and wistfulness, and illuminating the affirming power of love. Every song on the album is a little masterpiece, and Brandy Clark is one of the best albums of the year so far.
Brandy Clark is available HERE.