country

Brandy Clark, “Your Life Is a Record” (Warner Bros.)

Clark has had a nice business going for the past decade as a Nashville songwriter to the stars. Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow” and Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” are signature songs for those artists, and both were written with Clark and her frequent writing partner, Shane McAnally. Clark’s songs have been regularly covered by huge mainstream country stars, too, including Reba McEntire, Jennifer Nettles, Keith Urban and Toby Keith.

Finding a wide audience for her own recordings has been a little trickier for Clark. Neither her first album, 2013’s “12 Stories” (whose title is a nod to Randy Newman’s “12 Songs”), nor 2016’s “Big Day in a Small Town” set the world on fire, commercially speaking. But both were remarkable collections that displayed an eye for detail, capacity for empathy and a wry sense of humor that marked her as a writer’s writer, the kind of songsmith who fills her peers with envy.

“Your Life Is a Record” follows a four-year break, and the end of a 15-year relationship that works its way into enough of the 11 economically sung and played songs here to qualify it as Clark’s most personal album by far.

Her light touch is apparent everywhere on the set produced by Jay Joyce, starting with the opener, “I’ll Be the Sad Song,” and on through the “Bigger Boat,” a lighthearted song about society falling apart that features a froggish guest vocal by Newman.

Clark’s subtle approach is evident on “Pawn Shop,” a saga about giving up on dreams that avoids cliches. And best of all is “Who You Thought I Was,” which gets at heartbreak where it really hurts, with the realization that the wonderful person you were as seen through your ex’s eyes is now gone for good.

Dan Deluca, Philadelphia Inquirer

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