Going to try this again. Last summer I made a foray into a weekly series of posts, but it trickled out after a few weeks. It isn’t too hard to find a song worthy of throwing some attention toward each week. The tough part is finding the time to write a little about it.
I’m going to start off this month with a song that I only discovered late in 2013, although I now know Reba recorded it three years previous. Brandy Clark’s 12 Stories is a really good album, and had I listened to it more- I only bought it at the end of November- it may have percolated its way into my 2013 Top #25.
When listening to Clark’s album yesterday, I was struck by not only the most obvious quality of Clark’s voice, but also by the album’s balance of clever- and sometimes nearly clichéd- country songwriting devices (lyrics and instrumentation) with a folk intensity that is seemingly heartfelt. It brought to mind a Guy Clark feature story recently published that, perhaps inadvertently, by highlighting the differences between the approach and even motivation of songwriters Harlan Howard and Guy Clark, revealed their similarities. (That is one poorly constructed sentence!) Brandy Clark follows a path similar to Guy Clark (and Rosanne Cash and Mary Chapin Carpenter) in that while there is an element of the ‘art for art’s sake” within her songwriting and singing, there is an equal component that keeps the bottom line well in sight.
“The Day She Got Divorced,” the eleventh story contained on Clark’s debut recording, captured my attention for several reasons. I love the swampy mood the instrumentation creates, a feeling that is as apparent on a solo performance of the song on YouTube as it is on the record. It is a song that within the wee mental jukebox of my brain, I can hear on a Bobbie Gentry or Jeannie c. Riley album of forty-plus years ago.
There are great images created through the lyrics. The images of a less-than-pristine house, down to the burning toast, are sharp. “Round and round about the child support he’d never pay…” is a great line, in my opinion, and continues to set the stage for the idea that things aren’t going to change a whole lot despite the divorce.
“The Day She Got Divorced” is a great, swooping country tale based solidly in reality. The set-up provides the protagonist with an opportunity- for a few moments- to appear more heroic that she actually is, a chance to rise above and start over. The grind of life wins out; lacking the means to turn things around now that he is out of her life, she is just a person getting by the best she knows how. She is substantial and significant, but she is far from perfect, and Clark- as well as co-writers Shane McAnally and Mark D. Sanders- keep the song and its character ‘real’ by not turning the song into an anthem of independent womanhood.
As the song fades, the dinner dishes are still soaking in the sink, and she is sitting at the table thinking about tomorrow- which will undoubtedly be similar to today.
Great stuff, and I am pleased to feature “The Day She Got Divorced” as my first Roots Song of the Week for 2014. Listen here.
12 Stories has been pretty much universally positively reviewed, and topped many ‘best of 2013’ lists. It is full of really, really good songs, and is well worth consideration. You may want to read more about Brandy at Engine 145, starting with this interview.
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