Brandy Clark is going to burst your bubble. She has the “life is not a fairytale,” “nothing falls from the sky” speech ready to go. Want the world to cut you a break? Forget it. She’s here to tell it like it is, and she sounds damn good doing it. Big Day in a Small Town, released June 10, is her sophomore project – her debut 12 Stories (“Stripes,” “Hungover”) was released to much critical acclaim in 2014. She also recently contributed a track to Dave Cobb’s Southern Family compilation and is a frequent Kacey Musgraves co-writer.
On Big Day, Clark lets her writing take the reins as she always has, but this collection is notably more radio-ready than her past efforts. She flexes her versatility, offering stomping honky-tonk anthems like “Drinkin’, Smokin’, Cheatin’” among somber heartbreakers like “Three Kids No Husband” (a Lori McKenna co-write) and “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven.”
Throughout the track list, she artfully dodges between small town naïveté and worldly wisdom, simultaneously celebrating and criticizing. Even on “Homecoming Queen,” which on the surface is a comparison of petty small town culture with harsh realities, the chorus grants her audience permission to feel nostalgic for the glory days (“Too bad life ain’t a local parade / In your uncle’s Corvette on a Saturday / With all the little girls waitin’ on you to wave when you’re seventeen”).
“Soap Opera” and “You Can Come Over” showcase her self-awareness, as does the lead single “Girl Next Door” which establishes Clark as the anti-cookie cutter female character. She continues her no-holds-barred approach to the truth on “Broke,” a catchy anthem to sing while drinking your very last bottle of – in Clark’s case – “generic Coke” on the front porch.
Every track is smart, but “Daughter” might even exceeds Clark’s own high standards in the category. It’s a classic breakup song, until you realize that she’s employing her ex-lover’s future daughter to teach him a well-deserved lesson: “She can’t help but love them boys / Who love to love and leave them girls just like her father / Yeah, karma’s a bitch, so I hope you have a daughter.” The concept is entertaining and the lyrics are funny, but her delivery shows she’s serious about every word.
Big Day in a Small Town is just as its title suggests – a realistic look into the many aspects of life in average America. Big, small, happy, sad, breezy, stormy … Clark covers it all with ease and brings us another high-quality collection of her best, most hard-hitting work.
- For a backyard barbecue: Broke, Big Day in a Small Town, Soap Opera
- With a solo glass of red: Love Can Go to Hell, Three Kids No Husband, Since You’ve Gone to Heaven, You Can Come Over
- When it’s time to move out: You Can Come Over, Homecoming Queen
- For a foot-on-the-gas drive out of town: Girl Next Door; Daughter; Drinkin,’ Smokin,’ Cheatin,’