Big Day In A Small Town
Warner/ Slate Creek
Review: Thom Jennings
Singer-songwriter Brandy Clark’s follow up to her Grammy nominated debut album 12 Stories arrives June 10. The concept album Big Day in a Small Town picks up where 12 Stories left off, delivering 11 new narratives that examine a cast of characters from the real world, filled with all the craziness and heartbreak of its predecessor.
Clark’s first album was such a brilliant effort, steeped in traditional country and filled with Twilight Zone worthy twists, that a follow up must have been a challenge. It was a task that Clark was up for, because not only has she managed to keep all of the elements that made 12 Stories an instant classic, she recorded an album that has plenty of songs fit for modern country radio.
The advance single is “The Girl Next Door,” a catchy, hook laden song that will have you tapping your toes right away.Simply put, it’s a great song with an incredible arrangement that is polished but does not relegate the beauty of the song into the background.
While “Girl Next Door” was a logical introductory song to Big Day in a Small Town, the song that may wind up being a huge hit for Clark is one of my favorite tracks “Love Can Go to Hell.” Thematically it has all the elements of a great song that everyone can relate to, as does “Broke” which is just as accessible.
Conceptually, all the songs fit nicely together as an examination of small town America. “Soap Opera” and the title cut “Big Day in a Small Town” remind that that even though national issues seem inescapable, it’s the things happening around us in our own communities that still matter the most.
The album closes with “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven,” a gut wrenching reality check that the loss of a loved one reverberates through our lives. It is a masterpiece, the kind of song every songwriter wishes they could write, and if you are not moved when you hear it you need to check your pulse.
In addition to the stellar production by Jay Joyce, Clark’s vocal performance is noteworthy. Clark’s ability to breathe life into a song was on display in 12 Stories but on Big Day in a Small Town she sounds more powerful and confident.
To sum it all up, Big Day in a Small Town is not just a worthy follow up to “12 Stories” it is a magnificent album in its own rite. It offers a stark examination of our world that may seem hopeless on the surface, but in fact it offer hope in the fact that we root for all of these people with their fractured lives, or we can rest in knowing we are not the only ones whose lives are filled with storybook endings.