Brandy Clark + Jim Lauderdale, Sage, Gateshead, 30th October 2017

Like fellow country singer-songwriters Angaleena Presley and Kacy Musgrave, Brandy Clark has a wonderful, at times sassy, sense of humour. She starts off a little serious, a little dark, but still okay, but then around the fourth song she lets her mask drop. It must be those official photographers; it wasn’t until after the first three songs allowed for stage photos had elapsed did a genuine smile truly emerge from the raven-haired Washington born act. Her humorous wit has become both a staple diet of her shows and the kind that incite her audience to voice their approval. Some no doubt able to relate all too well to her lyrics, while others, were just happy to hear someone voice a feminist viewpoint.

After a steady start she took the place by storm. Her songs connected with her audience big time as she hit her stride with Girl Next Door and Three Kids No Husband and with more to come her fans, by the end of the night, were too in fine voice as they voiced approval at the themes she focussed on. The band fuelled the fire. Clark was well aided by the superb, less is more, acoustic guitar of Miles Aubrey and upright bass of New Zealand girl, Vanessa McGowan who not only smacked it but also showed herself well versed with a bow. Her harmony vocal support like that of Aubrey was also good, yet it was the way she set away the rhythm that caught my attention the most.

Clark’s appeal to women as she speaks of how the fairer sex is sometimes treated on Drinkin’ Cheatin’ Drinkin’ (the audience loved the mention of smokin’ weed- if they like it that much they might well be advised to check out Willie Nelson’s most recent autobiography, My Life; It’s A Long Story), the aforementioned Three Kids.. and her revenge song, Daughter, had them feel here was their voice. Clark is one of the sharpest knives in the kitchen and knows how to play on the emotions of people, connect with them and no doubt she knows her share of characters in her songs. Daughter, like a few others, jumped off the stage, and with Stripes, from her album 12 Stories, adding to the feast from her current album Big Day In A Small Town, Clark and her band performed one the best shows I have attended at the hall.

Was there an encore? Of course there was. Pray To Jesus rounded off the gig in style, and like all they did it connected!  Brandy Clark lived up to my expectations, ticked all the boxes and if nothing seriously wrong goes awry, she has a host of great songs left in her yet to write. Country music needs more singer-songwriters like Clark, and despite all the negatives the idiom is in better shape than it has been for quite some time. It might not be the correct time, but I am going to say it anyhow. Clark, along with the other ladies mentioned earlier and along with Brennen Leigh, is a seriously clever female songwriter. These ladies are setting the bar.

Support for Clark came in the form of famed, and prolific as they come, North Carolina-born Jim Lauderdale. Lauderdale’s set of just over 30 minutes was adequate, for him to share a wee sampling of his work. Dressed in his rhinestone suit the tunesmith might not be too well known this side of the pond. He has written a great number of songs, a bunch of them co-written with the likes of Buddy Miller, the late Ralph Stanley by way of Robert Hunter (who wrote a bunch for the Grateful Dead) and more but he doesn’t always pick the correct ones or allow the songs flow act as they might. Among his finest you had his story of arguably the greatest country ballad singer of all-time, George Jones, on King Of Broken Hearts (a hit for George Strait). He rounded off his set with his co-write with Miller, Hole In My Head.

Author: Maurice Hope

Work for CEF, live in Hexham, Northumberland. Americana, country, folk and bluegrass Journalist since 1988 and currently write for Americana-UK.com, Flyinshoes and live reviews for Northern Echo and Jumpin’ Hot Club. Enjoy photography, walking, natural history, travel, reading and writing poetry.

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