Hit songwriter Brandy Clark steps out of the shadows with her very own album on Tuesday (Oct. 22). Also arriving are projects from Clay Cook of the Zac Brown Band and Ty Herndon.
One of CMT's Next Women of Country, Clark left her mark this year by co-writing the edgy "Better Dig Two" (The Band Perry) and "Mama's Broken Heart" (Miranda Lambert). Yet her friends in the business still encouraged her to record a batch of her own songs. 12 Stories is the result, a collection that is earning praise for its honest writing and controversial subject matter.
"I think my music is a dark comedy, just as I think life is a dark comedy," says Clark. "The truth is funny sometimes. I don't ever want to come across as corny or novelty, but you have to laugh at things. I feel like this record is about what's really going on in life."
Songs like "Get High" and "Take a Little Pill" cover ground that's often off limits in contemporary country songwriting, while "Pray to Jesus" and "The Day She Got Divorced" take an unpolished look at middle class and family life, respectively. "Stripes" adds a bit of humor to the familiar "bad girl" image.
"I get my inspiration from real people who are just surviving their lives and getting through their days," Clark says. "That's who I write songs for. I want to write songs for somebody who is working at a bank -- if that person could write a song -- what they would write. That's my goal."
Cook can often be found playing any number of instruments and singing in the Zac Brown Band, but on North Star, the multi-instrumentalist charts his own course. Featuring guest appearances by Oliver Wood of the Wood Brothers and Clare Bowen from ABC's Nashville, Cook delivers a rootsy rock style.
A breakout star in the mid-90s, Herndon suffered a fall from grace and climb back that has now culminated in his first country album in nearly seven years, Lies I Told Myself.
"Addiction has cost me a lot in my life," Herndon admits. "And because of addiction, I told myself a lot of things that weren't true. And in recovery, I have seen absolutely the light of truth. But I don't know that I really consider this song ["Lies I Told Myself"] a recovery song. I just consider it a song of truth."
Independent releases this week include Smoke and Mirrors from pleasingly poppy folkster Brett Dennen, while veteran character writer Greg Trooper offers his 12th album, Incident on Willow Street.
Bluegrass and string band releases include Hall of Fame Bluegrass! from Junior Sisk and Joe Mullins, Superstring Theory from Andy Statman (featuring Tim O'Brien and Michael Cleveland) and Back 40 from Robin & Linda Williams.
Finally, Memories of That Old Country Church honors classic gospel bluegrass songs from Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley performed by Rhonda Vincent, Larry Sparks and more.