BY LESLEY HASTINGS
Having worked together remotely during the pandemic (Carlile produced and added her vocals to Clark’s Grammy nominated “Same Devil”) the announcement that the two BCs had joined forces on Clark’s latest self-titled album, released last Friday via Warner Records, was welcome news to many. The two friends, whose careers have intertwined to some degree for several years now, share much more in common than just their initials. Insane talent goes without saying as they have demonstrated in bucket loads throughout their respective careers to date, but in addition both hail from Washington State and are openly gay.
Carlile has been carving her name as a producer for other artists in recent years, working most notably with Tanya Tucker but also LA duo Lucius who she brings in to add some stunning vocals on this release. The varied arrangements throughout the eleven tracks enhance but never overshadow the songs themselves, ensuring Brandy’s insightful lyrics and beautiful vocals are always centre stage.
To my mind, “Brandy Clark” is the perfect title for the album as is sees the artist opening up and baring her soul about life and love like never before. If you thought 2020’s “Your Life Is A Record” was a personal outpouring, then these songs take honesty and vulnerability to an entirely new level and it’s not surprising to see some of Clark’s most longstanding and trusted co-writers’ names among the credits including Shane McAnally and Jessie Jo Dillon.
I’m always intrigued with track order on an album, and “Brandy Clark” is bookended by two which to my mind could not sit anywhere else.
The listener is hit squarely in the eyes (should that be ears?) by the opener “Ain’t Enough Rocks”, a murder ballad none the less! While Brandy has written more than her fair share of revenge songs over the years this one takes things to a whole new level in every respect, a dark tale of child abuse which draws the listener in from the start as Brandy almost spits out the open lines. We learn of the “wolf in daddy’s clothing” and the horrors he inflicted on his two daughters who took the ultimate revenge, the song playing out like a scene from a movie with the accompaniment building dramatically as the story unfolds with some killer (no pun intended!) guitar courtesy of the legendary Derek Trucks.
In total contrast for many reasons, the album closes with the sparsely accompanied love song, “Take Mine”. With delicate and heartfelt vocal delivery, Brandy celebrates finding that special someone who came into her life “ when love, love was all I needed”. And in return she promises she will always be there for them in their time of need. Such a positive note on which to bring this project to a close, and who doesn’t like a happy ending?
So what happens in between these two tracks?
The three songs available in advance of the full album set the largely reflective tone of the project perfectly. The drum driven anthem “Northwest” pays homage to her native State, while “She Smoked In The House”, the only solo write on the album and a throwback to the well observed, character driven songs on “ 12 Stories”, paints a vivid picture of Brandy’s beloved late grandma Ruth. I love how these two tracks cleverly segue on the album, incidentally . And then there was the lead single “Buried” which simply slew me from first listen. A declaration of undying love, delivered with a fragility and ache that is almost tangible, that last line alone is enough to reduce me to tears every time.
It’s one of several songs on this collection which sees Brandy exploring relationships throughout their various stages, often voicing her insecurities when it comes to love. I noticed that in “Buried” the only reasons she cites for things potentially falling apart are if the other party doesn’t want or love HER any more , and in “Come Back To Me” this self doubt returns as she wonders if she’s enough for her partner telling them “Hey, I wanna hold you, but I don’t want to hold you back”. Then of course there’s the gorgeous piano-led ballad “Dear Insecurity” in which she tackles the issue head on when it comes to the early stages of a relationship. ”This time feels like love. She’s really sure of me, so please don’t fuck this up” is the plea, the song cleverly addressing insecurity as a person. This gem may contain some of the album’s more amusing lines but it’s as hard hitting as any, and the two BC’s voices are pure perfection together as are those strings in the mix!
For the sake of (relative!) brevity this is just a taste of what is on offer from this much anticipated release, one I’m still fully digesting myself. I’m hearing something new with every listen and favourite tracks change all the time, (currently it’s “Come Back To Me“ originally cut by Keith Urban on his album “Fuse”) which is always a good sign for me. The BC’s have come up with something very special indeed and are definitely a Brilliant Combination as far as I am concerned. I hope you agree.
Listen to “ Brandy Clark” here