Brandy Clark's 12 Stories is the cure for the common country song. Sorry, that was a terrible opening line, but I'm gonna leave it in here because it might make this review stick in your head for better or worse.
While her vocal style may recall a bit of Trisha Yearwood or Rosanne Cash and her writing may bring to mind Miranda Lambert or Kacey Musgraves (both of whom she has written with/for), Brandy is an artist unto her own.
She's kept all the best songs for herself …and good for her! The debut single, "Stripes" is a witty kiss-off that mixes infidelity, fashion and revenge into what would almost be a novelty song with a less lived-in vocal. In a world where females make up less than 15% of the country chart, "Stripes" would be a welcome (and welcomed(!), if only the mass of country radio's audience had a chance to hear it) entry into the testosterone-apalooza.
"What'll Keep Me Out of Heaven" might be the best pure country song of 2013. It's an old-school cheating song with modern sensibilities. Clark goes through a near real-time analysis of the desires and implications inherent in a potential hotel room hook-up, and it is captivating.
"Take a Little Pill" is my favorite cut on 12 Stories. It'll never ever ever ever get anywhere near country radio because it's far too close to real life. Here, Brandy explores pharmaceutical healing in an age where the fine line between necessity and easy-out are crossed with little regard for the consequences.
12 Stories is the rare album where every song is as catchy as it is intelligent. Its over-arching theme seems to be similar to that of bro-country - escape; however, Brandy explicitly tells you what harsh realities are being numbed away or ignored, and what the repercussions may be in the end. It's a stunning debut that begs more than critical praise - it deserves a big stage from which to remind a wide audience about the beauty and ugliness of real life.