’12 Stories’ a music album by Brandy Clark (2013)
Today I want to talk about the powerful new music album ’12 Stories’ by Brandy Clark which is probably the finest United States country album in at least a quarter century. Besides performing on them, Brandy Clark wrote all the songs on this excellent album. Here is a video of her song ‘Stripes’. But first a little background.
Back on March 10, 2003, on the eve of the United States invasion of Iraq, Natalie Maines of the country group the Dixie Chicks said during a concert in London, “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
The powers-that-be in country music were so offended by this statement that they stomped down hard on Natalie and the Dixie Chicks, and by the end of that month Dixie Chicks songs were no longer being played on any country radio station in the United States. The company that sponsored their concerts, Lipton Tea, dropped them. Yet one of the true country legends, Merle Haggard, defended their right to voice an opinion and condemned the verbal witch-hunt and lynching. His defense went to little avail.
Then it was up to the big-time radio executives and record producers to enforce right-wing conformity on country music. Clear Channel Communications, Inc owns at least 850 radio stations in the United States, by far the most of any corporation. Many of these stations play country music. On their news talk stations, Clear Channel airs among others Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity,
These executives succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in making sure country artists toed the line of conservative ‘Tea Party’ orthodoxy. The only politics allowed were displays of militaristic patriotism. Also there could be no hint of trouble in RedState land. Anything implying that the standard of living of working class whites might be declining had to be avoided. As far as men and women were concerned, there could be no honest talk of severe problems in relationships.
Many country artists just wanted to avoid any controversy by not getting into anything controversial at all. Thus we wind up with bubbleheads in cowboy hats singing lame party anthems and songs that don’t even sound like country songs.
Now along comes Brandy Clark.
She writes songs about real people with real problems. She observes the people around her and finds that things aren’t so great in RedState land. As the title indicates, here are twelve stories about the traditional subjects of country music like cheating, drinking, and divorce, and living in general.
We load our kids up in our new used car
And after church we hit the mini mart
Behind the counter up there on the wall
It reads 200 million on the power ball
So we pray to Jesus and play the Lotto.
From ‘Pray to Jesus’ by Brandy Clark
The amazing thing about Brandy Clark is that she is not selling anything; she’s just carefully observing the way things are. This is what the great country artists of the past did, but which the country artists of today are not allowed to do.
As far as the relations between men and women, again things aren’t so good. It’s that ‘liquored up lust’.
He was getting drunk just like the day before
The day she got divorced
Didn’t feel any different than it ever had
She wasn’t that sorry, wasn’t that sad
Couldn’t love him any less or hate him anymore
The day she got divorced
From ‘The Day She Got Divorced’ by Brandy Clark
I got a new job, I gave up smoking’
Changed my lipstick, and those roses opened
I let my hair grow down past my shoulders
All while you were hungover
From ‘Hungover’ by Brandy Clark
Every one of these twelve songs is a classic country song that I listened to over and over. The wording in these songs is brilliant. It was fascinating and refreshing to get Brandy Clark’s take on life today. It has been a long time since I’ve said that about any country artist. I suppose the closest artist from the past to Brandy Clark would be Loretta Lynn. Brandy Clark’s singing and the music on this album are excellent too.
There are other female artists who are pushing the envelope like Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves, both of whom have recorded Brandy Clark songs. It would be wonderful if some male country artist would come along and write songs with similar honesty, courage, and insight as Brandy Clark.
All that remains for Brandy Clark to do is to say something that offends Clear Channel and the Koch Brothers.