As a Country music fan then it is hard not to be eternally grateful for the recent resurgence of female artists who write and perform their own material and don’t sing about pick ups, tight black dresses, ice cold beer and the intolerable pain of seeing your paramour from the other side of the bar in the arms of a rival similarly wearing denim and a Stetson. Brandy Clark is such an artist with other artists such as Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert.
Clark, backed by Miles Aubrey on acoustic guitar and Vanessa McGowan on upright bass, strode onto the stage and worked her way through her last two albums with a few new tracks scattered here and there. “Hold My Hand’ is an arresting place to start and may be her signature ballad. A tale of two former lovers meeting whilst he’s in the company of his new love. His new love gives the advice to hold her hand to reaffirm that she isn’t ‘just a soft place to land’. Coupled to a devastating tune this song highlights Clark’s talent to tell a story with so much information in so few words. A true gift.
“Love Can Go To Hell” has resonance with her thirty plus age group audience. That familiar sense of loss and pain from failed affairs and the acceptance of its vicissitudes. Many of her songs deal with real lives, their mundane struggles and the reality that you have to roll with the punches because paying the bills, feeding the kids or pouring a customer’s cup of coffee is the priority.
Her clear strong voice, so simply backed, was sufficient given the quality of all the songs. She has the gift for melody with a Country pop sensibility. Highlights were numerous but “The Day She Got Divorced” (covered by Reba McEntire in 2010) has its own story about an absent (soon to be ex) husband who drinks her alimony whilst she takes comfort in the arms of her boss. This is despite his bedroom lies knowing that housework and hungry children await her after her assignation.
New songs included an outtake from her Big Day In A Small Town album that ended up as a single in July called “You’re Drunk”. The lyrics tell the story, maybe familiar to a woman who’s been dumped only to get a visit from her former lover in the early hours! A bass introduction followed by a vocal is distinctive and rhythmic and then she invited the audience to join in on the chorus as this hilarious yet depressing scenario is played out.
She signed off with Stripes before re-emerging for two encores including a new song - “Apologies”. She describes many of her songs as ‘left of center’, which is clear and she comes across as an undemonstrative serious songwriter now getting increasingly used to the spotlight being on her.
The whole set of 17 songs was a joy, but I must complain that it was disappointingly brief at 65 minutes.