A record­ing that con­nects

What’s next for ris­ing artist Brandy Clark? Maybe an al­bum of drink­ing songs.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Randy Lewis randy.lewis@la­times.com Twitter: @RandyLewis2

Brandy Clark de­liv­ers wor­thy ver­sions of her songs on the new al­bum “Live From Los Angeles.”

How do you tell when a song has con­nected with peo­ple in a re­ally big way?

“When­ever it be­comes a merch item,” widely lauded coun­try singer and song­writer Brandy Clark said Wed­nes­day be­fore the Aug. 18 re­lease of her al­bum, “Brandy Clark: Live From Los Angeles,” recorded last year at Ho­tel Café in Hol­ly­wood.

“We have a T-shirt that says ‘Karma’s a… — I hope you have a daugh­ter,” she said, ref­er­enc­ing the PG-13 line from her song “Daugh­ter,” a cut on last year’s “Big Day in a Small Town” stu­dio al­bum.

It’s a song she played live for the first time last year at the Ho­tel Café. “If peo­ple start wear­ing some­thing that has some­thing you wrote on it, you know they re­ally iden­tify with it.”

In just the two al­bums she’s re­leased since making her ma­jor-la­bel de­but in 2015 with “12 Sto­ries,” Clark has writ­ten her fair share of in­ven­tive and snappy phrases that are T-shirt-, hoodie- or cof­fee mug-ready.

For in­stance, she sells ap­parel that reads “Ain’t your Mar­cia Brady” (a line from “Girl Next Door”) as well as “Love Can Go to Hell,” both from the “Big Day in a Small Town” al­bum.

“Girl Next Door” also ap­pears on “Live From Los Angeles” in one of the al­bum’s in­stru­men­tally stripped down ver­sions she de­liv­ered with gui­tarist and har­mony singer Miles Aubrey. Yet the dialed-down ren­di­tions lose none of the en­ergy or sass of the stu­dio ver­sions.

Be­tween Clark’s con­sis­tently smart lyrics, her ever twist­ing and turn­ing melodies and Aubrey’s tasty gui­tar fills and so­los, there’s never a dull mo­ment in the new 11-track al­bum.

Orig­i­nally, the al­bum was made strictly as a bonus vinyl re­lease last April for in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers — part of a lim­ited-edi­tion press­ing of 2,500 copies. But be­cause she and others at her la­bel were so taken with the spirit of the record­ing as well as with the en­thu­si­asm the Ho­tel Café au­di­ence ex­hib­ited that night, they de­cided to re­lease a dig­i­tal ver­sion so more of her fans could ac­cess it.

“A lot of times we’ll record shows if we have the abil­ity to, and the Ho­tel Café has the abil­ity to,” she said. “I had played there ear­lier, and it was such a good vibe and such a cool room that we recorded the show when we went back. It turned out bet­ter than we had hoped for. A lot of fans had been say­ing, ‘We love your band, but we also love it when the songs are more stripped down.’ ”

Clark had a solid rep­u­ta­tion as a song­writer be­fore start­ing to record her own ma­te­rial. She’s best known, per­haps, as co-writer, with Kacey Mus­graves and Shane McA­nally, of Mi­randa Lam­bert’s 2013 hit “Not Your Mama’s Bro­ken Heart.”

So rather than sim­ply rely on ma­te­rial from her own first two al­bums on the live set, Clark also used the op­por­tu­nity at Ho­tel Café to in­tro­duce a pre­vi­ously un­recorded song, “When I Get to Drinkin’.” In her intro to the song, she says she’d like to one day do an en­tire al­bum of drink­ing songs.

“I don’t know if that’s on a five-year or a 10-year or a oneyear plan,” she said. “I don’t know if it’ll be my next project. So much of what I love about mu­sic goes back to my mom, and she had this [1997] k.d. lang al­bum called ‘Drag,’ with songs that all had ref­er­ences to cig­a­rettes in them, like ‘Three Cig­a­rettes In an Ash­tray.’ I love con­cept records.”

“It would be a great chal­lenge,” she said. “It would be a chal­lenge to do the un­ex­pected, to cover the range of emo­tions that go with drink­ing — it couldn’t just all be al­co­holic-type drink­ing songs.”

As much fun as she has in hu­mor-laden num­bers in­clud­ing “Daugh­ter,” “Get High” and “Smokin’ Drinkin’ Cheatin’,” Clark also dives deep emo­tion­ally in the live al­bum’s bal­lads such as “Hold My Hand,” “When I Get to Drinkin’ ” and “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven.”

Of the lat­ter, she said, “My dad was killed in a log­ging ac­ci­dent in July 2001, just be­fore 9/11,” she said, ref­er­enc­ing the ter­ror­ist at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I went home for a week, and then went back to work. I re­mem­ber 9/11 hap­pen­ing and still feel­ing raw in the grief of los­ing my dad, and then see­ing the whole coun­try griev­ing, watch­ing the news on CNN, and think­ing ‘Since my dad has died, the world has gone to hell.’ I had that idea, ‘Since you’ve gone to heaven, the whole world’s gone to hell.’ ”

One of her rev­e­la­tions from the ex­pe­ri­ence of the show at Ho­tel Café was the au­di­ence’s re­sponse to “When I Get to Drinkin’.”

“I al­ways loved that song, but I didn’t know how peo­ple would re­spond to it,” she said. “One of the first times I did it was at Ho­tel Café, and the crowd’s en­thu­si­asm was such a pleas­ant sur­prise. That taught me, ‘OK, I need to trust my­self a lit­tle more.’ ”

She’s also re­ceived lots of pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment from the in­dus­try, in­clud­ing sev­eral Grammy nom­i­na­tions in the coun­try fields as well as a nom­i­na­tion for best new artist at the 2015 cer­e­mony.

“It’s funny to me, I felt like we were into it a good six months be­fore I re­ally started to feel a swell” for the “Big Day in a Small Town” al­bum, she said. “The Grammy nom­i­na­tions re­ally helped, and it con­tin­ues to have a life, con­tin­ues to grow and have a big­ger life. I be­lieve in both records, and I be­lieve in that record so much. To me it’s a good bar for what I do next. I want to keep the bar high and keep rais­ing it, but do­ing things that move me and that move other peo­ple.”

Ja­son Davis Getty Images

Michael Owen Baker For The Times

BRANDY CLARK’S new al­bum of live mu­sic fea­tures dialed-down ver­sions of some of her catchi­est songs.

Warner Bros.

CLARK’S al­bum was recorded in Hol­ly­wood.

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