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There's no explicit narrative threading together Brandy Clark's second album, Big Day In A Small Town. Instead, the 11 interconnected songs map a small collection of streets, landmarks, loves, betrayals and heartbreaks that cohere into a place as particular and as universal as Winesburg or Grover's Corners.
Low-key and wry, Clark is a meticulous songwriter who made hits for Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert, LeAnn Rimes and Kacey Musgraves before she put her own name on an album. (It's hard to believe that nobody wrote the instant-classic line, "If you want the girl next door, then go next door," before she did.) But when Clark steps in front of a mic and turns on the charm, her humor pulls the audience right into every single joke — watch for the knowing smile she shoots guitarist Miles Aubrey just before she drops a bomb at the end of the first chorus of "Daughter." In anyone else's hands, that song might have been a bitter revenge fantasy, but Clark's gently swooping verses and puckered choruses sketch the bemused, from-the-front-porch distance of wronged party who knows that fate is likely to do more damage to a cad than a key would ever do to his car's glossy paint job.
"I really developed a love for small towns when my dad died and I went home for his memorial service, and there were so many people they had to have it in a gym," Clark said before introducing "Since You've Gone To Heaven," the heartbreaker that closes Big Day. "And that's not an uncommon thing in a small town, but anywhere else in the world, that only happens for a celebrity." Clark's gift as a performer is making any room — even a newsroom on a cold, rainy spring afternoon — feel as warmly human.
Producers: Jacob Ganz, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Maia Stern; Editor: Claire Hannah Collins; Production Assistant: Marissa Lorusso; Photo: NPR.
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