Brandy Clark is, quite simply, one of the most exciting singer/songwriters to come out of Nashville. A multiple Grammy nominee, CMA award winner, and GLAAD Media award winner, Clark has written massive hits for Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, and more, as well as scoring her own hits thanks to her highly acclaimed latest album Your Life is a Record. It was inevitable that she would grace the ACL stage, and we were thrilled to live stream the performance around the world.
Clark and her five-piece band opened with “Who You Thought I Was,” a lovely mid-tempo yearner with Kaitlyn Raitz’s cello in place of steel guitar. After noting that she grew up watching ACL (“a real bucket list gig for me”) and PBS, Clark visited the “Pawn Shop” for the kind of classic story song that all great C&W writers master. She followed that with “Love is a Fire,” an absolutely gorgeous ballad that would melt the coldest of hearts. The mood didn’t stay somber for long, however, as Clark sang “Long Walk,” a repurposing of the phrase “Take a long walk over a short pier” (learned from her mother, who was in attendance) and intended as a riposte to trolls everywhere. With “Same Devil,” a duet with Brandi Carlile on Your Life is a Record, Clark broadened her reach, putting a spotlight on everyone struggling with inner – and outer – demons. She pulled back for a more personal angle for the ballad “You Can Come Over” (“but you can’t come in”), leveling straight into the thematically similar but emotionally pricklier “Love Can Go to Hell.” Then it was time for more sociopolitical commentary, via the famous phrase “Bigger Boat” from Jaws, a film Clark admitted to being obsessed with as a youth.
It’s almost impossible for artists not to acknowledge Covid in some way, and Clark was no exception with the luminous “Remember Me Beautiful,” a powerful elegy to those lost. She then put her own spin on the classic C&W prison song with the clever, funny “Stripes.” The melancholy breakup tune “Can We Be Strangers” broke everyone’s heart all over again, before “Pray to Jesus” refocused on sardonic social commentary. With “Get High,” Clark
told a story about an old high school friend that, as she’s discovered, is the same friend lots of us had – the type of person who grows up and deals with being overwhelmed by visiting Mary Jane at night. She got even funnier with the two-stepping “Daughter,” a sly poke at the sort of man who uses women and spits them out – “Karma’s a bitch, and I hope you have a daughter.” Her penultimate song “Like Mine” nodded to anthem territory, throwing its arms around everyone with a “heart like mine.”
Clark ended the set with “Hold My Hand,” a stately, fan-favorite ballad from her first album 12 Stories that sent us out gently into the night. It was a perfect way to end her debut taping, and we can’t wait for you to see her in action as part of our forty-seventh season this fall on your local PBS station.