Showing posts with label brandy clark. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brandy clark. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

the top 50 best songs of 2016

I've gone on record that this list in particular is always the hardest to make. Refining a list of songs that I've covered on albums I've reviewed over the course of the year - which numbers in the thousands of songs - down to a select six hundred or so, then down to a subset of just under 200... and then the final fifty. Suffice to say, there's always a lot to cover.

But I have to say, this year felt easier than others. I'd say part of it is that I'm getting a better handle on my organization going into these lists, but that would assume I've got some inkling of what I'm doing here. I think the larger factor is that the truly amazing songs that monopolized my year - the top 35 or so - they fell into place remarkably quickly, and that made ironing out the details easier than I expected. Maybe it was because it was easier for me to get passionate about some of these tracks than before, because if you ventured away from the mainstream Hot 100, there was a lot of great music in 2016. Away from the charts there was great metal, rock, synthpop, hip-hop, and especially country, which had one of its best years in recent memory, and fair warning, there's going to be a lot of it on this list.

As always, the songs had to appear on any one of the albums I reviewed - singles or deep cuts, all are possible, so no more wasting time, we have a lot to get through! So let's start off crazy with...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

video review: 'big day in a small town' by brandy clark

Again, this review took longer than it should have to get finished off, but it's still here - and it's a damn great album too, definitely check it out if you haven't yet.

Next up... Little Big Town's pop album. Joy. I'll get through that before RHCP, so stay tuned!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

album review: 'big day in a small town' by brandy clark

It should not be as easy to overlook Brandy Clark as it seems to be.

Now that's a bit of a weird statement, especially if you've coming from the country underground and have heard her name praised to high heavens, especially for her solo debut 12 Stories in 2013 that was easily one of the best albums of that year... and yet I bet if you mentioned her to your average country fan, you'd be lucky to find anyone who recognizes her name. And that genuinely sucks, because Brandy Clark isn't just one of the smartest and most nuanced songwriters in modern country, known for racking up credits behind Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert and even Reba McEntire, but also a powerful performer in her own right with a stunning voice and real stage presence. The word of the game is subtlety - Kacey Musgraves might be a little flashier, and arguably a little catchier, but Brandy Clark brought real gravitas and grounded humanity to much of her material that tended to stick with you. Sadly, she's also reached forty, which means the image-obsessed mainstream country radio wants nothing to do with her, and even her label's stabs at pushing her to towards the mainstream have been ignored. And this strikes me as completely asinine, because one of the special things about country is that it can play to an older demographic to whom Brandy Clark would probably be a huge breath of fresh air!

But putting aside the marketing, it does look like Brandy Clark's career is gaining traction - she landed one of the best songs on the instant classic Southern Family compilation from Dave Cobb, and she landed as an opening act for Eric Church, who seems to be working overtime to restore his indie country cred with both a great album and pulling underrated talent on tour. And with Brandy Clark, she's even joined by producer Jay Joyce, who also seems to be working overtime on reputation repair. Now I'll admit I've softened on Joyce a bit - it was clear he was the biggest factor to keeping quality with Cage The Elephant, and his work with Brothers Osborne and Eric Church over the past eight months has been considerably stronger - but I wasn't sure how well he'd balance with Brandy Clark's voice, and let's face it: he's no Dave Cobb. But that didn't mean I wasn't going to cover a sophomore album that was bound to be great, so I dug into Big Day In A Small Town - what did I find?

Friday, March 25, 2016

video review: 'southern family' by dave cobb & various artists

You know, if I don't find another record that matches this, it'll be a compilation record that'll be my album of the year. Weird, but I'm kind of down with that - mostly because it quite literally is that goddamn amazing. Chills everytime, man.

Next up... well, might as well deal with Zayn, so stay tuned!

album review: 'southern family' by dave cobb & various artists

This has easily been my most anticipated record of 2016. And to explain why, we need to go back to 1978 and an independent country release called White Mansions. Written by singer-songwriter Paul Kennerley, it was the rarest sort of release in country music: a narrative-driven concept album containing multiple artists each playing a distinctive part. This was in the height of the outlaw movement, and as such recruited artists like John Dillon, Steve Cash, Jessi Colter, and Waylon Jennings himself, even pulling on Eric Clapton to play guitar on a few tracks. And while the tighter budget definitely shows at a few points, the ambition was unmistakable: this was the story of the Civil War from the South's point-of-view, but pulled zero punches about the roots of the conflict and the deep, lingering scars left on the American psyche, especially in the South. I can say bluntly that the political fallout would make such a record impossible to make today - and I can say without hyperbole that it is a classic country album, and if you're lucky enough to find a copy, I can't recommend it highly enough.

So why is any of this relevant? Well, if you've been watching the resurgence of outlaw country around the edges of Nashville, you shouldn't even be surprised. Over the past two to three years and the increasingly sterile and meat-headed modern country scene, the independent country scene has expanded like never before. Part of this is the rise of the Internet allowing local acts to gain groundswell, but at the epicenter is one incredibly gifted producer whose hands have touched most of the best country records of the past several years: Dave Cobb. Now I've raved about this guy a number of times on my channel - and if you know his production background you'll understand why - but what you probably don't know is his work behind the scenes, becoming the new caretaker of the legendary Studio A in Nashville and establishing his own publishing imprint, which gives him the ability to foster greater talent. Of course, it's also helped matters that he's produced some of the biggest indie country albums of the past few years, from Sturgill Simpson to Jason Isbell, from Lindi Ortega to the Grammy-winning debut album from Chris Stapleton.

And all of this has given him the clout and budget to pursue the sort of passion project country fans don't dare to dream about: a concept record inspired by White Mansions with the sort of line-up that would seem impossible. Let's run through the list: Jason Isbell, Chris and Morgane Stapleton, Jamey Johnson, Brandy Clark, Holly Williams, Brent Cobb, Anderson East, Shooter Jennings, John Paul White formerly of the Civil Wars, Rich Roberson of the Black Crowes, and not to completely exclude the mainstream, Zac Brown and Miranda Lambert. This is an Ayreon project for country music from one of the best producers in the industry, which meant that while this is my most anticipated project of 2016, it was also the one where I had the highest of expectations - could Dave Cobb pull this off?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

video review: '12 stories' by brandy clark

Yeah, this album is awesome, no arguments from me. Sincerely hope this review might get Brandy Clark a little more exposure, because she definitely deserves it.

Okay, Dream Theater, let's get this done.

album review: '12 stories' by brandy clark

We return again to country music, but this week, we aren't going to talk about the mainstream country scene or the widening split between bro-country and traditional country. This time, we're going to be talking about what some have called 'underground country', the music that doesn't quite reach the airwaves these days or have a lot of pop crossover success.

Here's where I'll have to confess something: outside of the mainstream country charts and outlaw country, I don't have a huge amount of knowledge regarding country acts that have never really charted outside the mainstream, acts that the average country music fan will have never heard of or likely will never hear. As I stated in my Special Comment regarding the state of modern country music, I put forward that due to the majority of critics ignoring underground country (especially Pitchfork, which I don't understand because hello, it's underground, it might actually be better than the mainstream country acts you've clearly dismissed), there isn't really a good avenue for country music fans like me to go digging for this sort of material. Honestly, if it wasn't for recommendations from the comments (thanks folks) and the regular visit to the website SavingCountryMusic, I wouldn't have the slightest clue where to start. And as I said, when the critical press ignores country music, not only does it damage the artistic and critical dialogue, but it also ignores lesser-known but potentially excellent country acts from garnering the critical acclaim they deserve.

And as pretty much the only country music critic on Youtube, I guess I can make it part of my duty to revise this, so let's talk about Brandy Clark. For those of you who don't know, she's a singer-songwriter who has cowritten a fair number of country songs I like, including 'Follow Your Arrow' from Kacey Musigraves which might just be one of my favourite songs of the year. She's better known for cowriting the excellent 'Mama's Broken Heart' for Miranda Lambert and most notably for cowriting the southern gothic and absolutely hysterical 'Better Dig Two' by The Band Perry. Reportedly, she has a taste for the seedy underbelly of country folk - and speaking as a fan of outlaw country and someone who digs the hell out of southern gothic takes on Americana, I was pretty psyched for this debut release, titled 12 Stories. I was less enthused by the fact that she's signed to a very small record label with the only other signee being Neal McCoy, but hey, baby steps. So, how does the record turn out?