Big Day in a Small Town is Brandy’s 2nd solo album, the follow up to the magnificent 12 Stories. Brandy has been writing songs for other artists for many years. She often writes with Shane McAnally and indeed her most notable success so far has been the song recorded by Miranda Lambert – Mama’s Broken Heart. This was co written not only with Shane, but also Kacey Musgraves, another songwriter who has since decided to start recording in her own right. She also co wrote Better Dig Two, which became the 3rd number 1 record for The Band Perry.
Brandy’s 1st solo album 12 Stories was released in October 2013 and was critically acclaimed. Indeed she was nominated for 3 Grammies on the back of it. She was nominated as Best New Artist (Sam Hunt won) and Best Country Album (Platinum by Miranda won) at the 2015 Grammy Awards. The following year Hold My Hand was nominated for Best Country Song (somewhat unsurprisingly Girl Crush by Little Big Town won!)
I have to admit, when Brandy was announced for C2C in 2015, I had never heard of her. I listened to her album 12 Stories on Spotify once. Before the album had even finished I had gone on to iTunes & purchased it!! The one & only time I have ever done this! I normally listen to an album several times before deciding to purchase it! To me Brandy has the hard ass attitude that I like, others in this category are Pistol Annies, Angeleena Presley, Miranda every now & again (more so in her earlier stuff) & Kacey (again 1st album Same Trailer Different Park, more than her 2nd album, Pageant Material!).
I am certain I was not alone, eagerly awaiting this albums release! The trouble then though is that you have the underlying fear that the 2nd album is not going to live up to the first and you are going to be left disappointed.
We kick off with Soap Opera, which basically talks about a hairdresser and a bar tender and the tales of woe they are told on a daily basis. It is an up tempo beat & any song including the lyric ‘Tip it on back’ gets my vote!!
The 2nd track is Girl Next Door, which was released as the 1st single from the album. This track is a typical Brandy feisty number and indicates that maybe this album will live up to its predecessor! It is a very catchy track and I found I knew the words after only a few plays and not actually trying to learn them!
How different life is at 28 compared to 17 is the theme in Homecoming Queen. When you are 17 years old and Homecoming Queen the world is at your feet, you are admired and adored. At 28 married with children you wonder what happened and when!
For people who were at Country 2 Country in 2015, the next track should sound familiar as it was one of the tracks Brandy played. Broke is a fun number about a very un fun subject! There are some really good lyrics in this track. “We’re secretly wishing that grandma would croak” “the fleas left the hound”.
You Can Come Over has a slow laid back type of feel to it. It is a break up number and probably one many of us can equate to. A couple have broken up, but neither of them are actually ready to let go. One of them keeps coming back and the inevitable happens so now she is saying you can come over but you can’t come in to try & stop the inevitable from happening!
With Love Can Go To Hell we have a sweet talking love song, but then hey, this is Brandy we are listening to, so it doesn’t stay that way for long!! It is an up tempo number talking about planning a new life with all the things she can now do that she couldn’t do before, but when it comes down to it she doesn’t actually want to! It follows on really well from You Can Come Over.
Every day life is covered in Big Day in a Small Town. There is a really irritating Ma nam ma nah type of thing going on in the background of this track. Did someone let the muppets in? It doesn’t happen all the way through the track, so it is really rather odd!! The track itself is about how your business is everybody’s business in a small town and if there isn’t anything to gossip about they will gossip about something incredibly mundane!
Three Kids No Husband is one of those numbers that you wonder why you are not as depressed as hell at these songs? Why are you humming, tapping your feet, nodding your head & even humming along by the end. This is a song about a single mum – obviously, & the hard work that that involves. Juggling time, money, work & a mother’s love, while secretly still wanting someone to share her life with!
The next track is called Daughter and from the title you think of a song about how wonderful it is to have a daughter, how special she is, but no, once again Brandy turns this concept on its head! A guy has cheated on her and broken her heart but rather than take physical revenge, like cutting his brakes, the revenge she takes is to wish a beautiful daughter on him and for him to then watch his daughter’s heart being broken by losers like him! Bit unfair on the poor daughter, but she does say that she thinks it is sad that she is the one to pay him back for his misdemeanours!
Drinkin’Smokin’ Cheatin’ is the penultimate track. It is a slow tempo number. Her partner is getting on her nerves and she would like to block him out, either through booze or drugs, maybe even cheat on him, but then she realises that she loves him anyway and really doesn’t want to be without him.
We finish with Since You’ve Gone to Heaven. This is a really sad track. Her father has died and he was obviously the glue that held them all together, without him everything seems to be falling apart. She knows her father would hate what is happening to his family without him, but she can’t seem to do much about it! It is a really poignant end to the CD.
1. Soap Opera
2. Girl Next Door
3. Homecoming Queen
5. You Can Come Over
6. Love Can Go to Hell
7. Big Day in a Small Town
8. Three Kids No Husband
10. Drinkin’ Smokin’ Cheatin’
11. Since You’ve Gone to Heaven
In my introduction I mentioned the fear of being disappointed with a follow up album, I am glad to report, this was not to be in this case! Brandy has stuck to the feisty style she has made her own.
A friend has said he would like to see her tour the UK, but she should do smaller venues as he does not feel she has the “X Factor”. I agree, her songs can be hard hitting and would not really suit a massive stage, but we have Miranda and Carrie for that. Not all the stars HAVE to be stadium fillers. It is OK for some to stick at what they are good at and entertain the masses at smaller venues. With this album Brandy remains one of my favourite artists.
Girl Next Door, Broke, Three Kids No Husband.
Six Shooter Rating
9 out of 10
I really enjoyed Brandy Clark’s first album, 12 Stories, and with a Grammy nomination under her belt, I was looking forward to her second album.
The album opens with Soap Opera. The song suggests that we are all stars of our own soap operas, with all that goes on in our lives. The song starts with a lovely bit of a cappella from Brandy. Listening to the song it is a reminder of Brandy’s sound and sets you up for the rest of the album.
I felt that Girl Next Door was a continuation of the story of Stripes from Brandy’s first album. In case you don’t know it, Stripes is about being cheated on and the fact that Brandy won’t do anything about it simply because she doesn’t like stripes. Girl Next Door is about the girl who is the other guilty party in this triangle. The melody of the song has echoes of the tune of Stripes too. I like the fact that Brandy has done this, it’s not often you get told chapters of a story through different songs.
As a Brit I find it hard to review songs that are completely about American culture, simply because I have a limited knowledge of American culture. Homecoming Queen is one of those types of songs. All I can say is it is about a Homecoming Queen and was covered by Sheryl Crow on her album Feels Like Home.
Broke is a rocky number that simply talks about being broke. The song lists all the bills that need paying and where money needs to be spent. It does have a slight comical side to it when Brandy states that they are so broke their eggs haven’t got yolks!!
Like Girl Next Door I felt that You Can Come Over is an update on a song from the previous album – What’ll Keep Me Out of Heaven in that song Brandy talks of a one night stand. In Come on Over Brandy says you can come over but you can’t come in. Once again the melody of both songs are similar.
Love Can Go to Hell unsurprisingly is a break up song. It details of how much Brandy hates the idea of love since the breakup.
Big Day in a Small Town is a real country song both in music style and geographical terms. The song talks about that little town in the middle of nowhere, where whatever happens within it will affect the whole community because everyone knows everyone. I really like the tune of this song.
Three Kids No Husband is a song that details the struggles of that very situation. If you are in or know someone in that situation then this is a song you will relate to.
The tempo of the album picks up a bit in Daughter and is an unusual stick it to the ex type song. The plot of the song is that Brandy has had a break up. Instead of being angry with him, she hopes the ex has a daughter of his own so he can feel the pain when the daughter goes through what the ex put Brandy through. This is a very original sentiment, coupled with a catchy tune, this is a highlight of the album. For any Kacey Musgraves fans out there, she provides harmony vocals on this track.
Drinkin’, Smokin’, Cheatin’ is a throwback to the early days of country music, both in sentiment and melody. The song sounds like it could be a cover of a Loretta Lynn number. It is always nice to hear modern artists pay their respects to the golden generation of country stars.
According to ITunes mini review, Since You’ve Gone To Heaven is inspired by the death of Brandy’s father. Knowing this, and listening to the song it is a very sad song indeed. The song discusses the effects of loss to close family members, friends and maybe even a whole community. It is an experience sadly we all will go through in our lives. But it’s is songs like these that make us feel like we are not the only ones. To me, that is one of the beauties of music.
There is no disputing that this is a Brandy Clark record. Her sound and writing style are very distinctive. I really liked the fact that the album builds on old subjects as well as introducing new ones. The melodies of the songs are both fast and slow which gives the album great variety. I hope that she comes to the UK soon to perform in her own right rather than part of a festival line up.
Daughter, Smokin’ Drinkin’ Cheatin’
Six Shooter Rating
9 out of 10