Originally from Washington state, seven-time Grammy winner Brandy Clark has released three excellent studio albums, including her marvelous 2014 debut, 12 Stories. The way she carves out stories about real people just trying to get by has marked her as one of the genre's finest storytellers.
What's even more, she has amassed an impressive songwriting catalog, having written songs for everyone from Kenny Rogers to Gretchen Wilson and David Nail. Even more, many of her own solo songs have been recorded by the likes of Reba McEntire, Sheryl Crow, LeAnn Rimes and Darius Rucker, among many others. Most recently, she wrote a slew of tracks for Ashley McBryde's Lindeville album.
Just in time for the release of Clark's self-titled Brandi Carlile-produced album (out May 19), take a peek into Clark's songwriting talents with our roundup of her 15 best co-writes so far.
15. "Hollywood," Maggie Rose
"Dysfunction's dysfunction no matter what state you come from," Maggie Rose sings. Clark, who penned the song with Stephony Smith and Shelly Fairchild, reflects upon how Hollywood folk really aren't that dissimilar to those living in middle America. "We're all the same no matter how you dress," Rose continues.
14. "Liar Liar," Aubrie Sellers
Co-written with Sellers and Jessie Jo Dillon, "Liar Liar" tells the tale of a "bargain-bin romanticizer" with a knack for destruction. "Spin your web just like a spider does," sings Sellers. Guitars thrash around, with Sellers' voice as sweet as nectar, yet venomous all the same. She takes no prisoners with a truly volatile performance.
13. "Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain," Reba McEntire
This is no run-of-the-mill heartache. "Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain" (written with Mark Narmore and Shelley Skidmore) details the sort of heartbreak that leaves you absolutely devastated. "Standing by your man, that's a broken plan when he breaks your heart," weeps Reba. Heart in two, she lets it all hang out - and it just might have you feeling a certain way, too.
12. "Bad Girl Phase," Sunny Sweeney
Penned with Dillon and Shannon Wright, "Bad Girl Phase" dares Sunny Sweeney to get a little reckless. "I won't be sorry for all the hell I've raised," she sings. The devil on her shoulder whispers into her ear, and she more than obliges every single desire. And that's okay, it's just a phase.
11. "This Town" by Kacey Musgraves
There's nothing like living in a small town. Everybody knows everybody, and your business is not just your own. "This Town" (co-written with Musgraves and Luke Laird) points out the faults of small-town living and the things that make it so great. "And around here, we all look out for each other," sings Musgraves.
10. "Better Dig Two," The Band Perry
A gothic-spun tale, "Better Dig Two" sees the country trio declaring undying love - well, until they shake off this mortal coil. "If that ring gets a little too tight, you might as well read me my last rites," sings Kimberly Perry. The song, co-written with Shane McAnally and Trevor Rosen, blends arsenic-laced production with deadly country balladry.
9. "Two Rings Shy," Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert's "Two Rings Shy" (co-written with Lambert and Heather Little) sees the singer-songwriter shielding her heart from pain. "I ain't wastin' good mascara, just to watch it runnin' down," sings Lambert. She proclaims her worth, not tied to a man. She might go out all dolled up, but she's not "your clown."
8. "Last Night's Make Up," Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis
With McAnally and Dillon in tow, Clark penned a sensitive ballad about a rough-going relationship. "I wish I could wash you off like last night's makeup," sings Morgan over acoustic guitar. She lays her heart bare, confessing her pain with mascara-stained cheeks and a trembling hand. The truth is: the heartache reaches right out of the song and touches the soul.
7. "Sparrow," Ashley McBryde
Everyone longs for home, a routine, and family (chosen and otherwise). With "Sparrow," co-written by Clark, Connie Harrington, Aaron Raitiere, Nicolette Hayford, McBryde and Jake Mitchell, McBryde muses on that undeniable feeling of missing home. "Yeah, I've been sleeping alright / I get a couple days in July / Kiss Dad for me, I love you both, goodnight," she sings with a particular sadness.
6. "Salvation Works," Jennifer Nettles
"Every singer has a future, and every saint has a past," sings Nettles. A co-write between Nettles, Clark and Lori McKenna, the song tackles the issue of faith in a modern world. A young woman turns to religion as a way to mask her pain, yet that's "not how salvation works," reminds Nettles.
5. "Follow Your Arrow," Kacey Musgraves
It doesn't matter what you do; somebody will have something to say about it. "Follow Your Arrow" (co-written with McAnally and Musgraves) makes a case for doing "whatever you want" in the face of scrutiny. From rolling up a joint to "kissing lots of boys," it's the gay (and weed-smoking) anthem we all needed.
4. "Dear Miss Loretta," Carly Pearce and Patty Loveless
Pearce might not know what it means to be a coal miner's daughter, but she can feel the pain as though it's her own. With "Dear Miss Loretta," co-written with Pearce and McAnally, the lyrics expose Pearce's own heartache from being an ex-wife. "I'm a long way from Kentucky, but the hurting's the same," sings Pearce, with Loveless on backing vocals.
3. "Gospel Night at the Strip Club," Ashley McBryde and Benjy Davis
Benjy Davis takes the lead with this Ashely McBryde deep cut. "Gospel Night at the Strip Club" (a co-write with Harrington, McBryde, Davis, Hayford, and Raitiere) utilizes spoken word in the verses, while the chorus peppers in a gospel inflection. "Jesus loves the drunkards and the whores and the queers" rings the hook. It's a powerful statement piece perfect for this time in history.
2. "Ten Year Town" by Hailey Whitters
They say Nashville is a 10-year town; it practically takes a decade to break through the noise and establish yourself. "I thought I'd be a big star now," laments Hailey Whitters, the co-writer on the song. Over acoustic guitar, her voice falls like diamonds on the hardwood. Her soul is a little weary, yet she's "too far in to turn back now." And so goes the music industry.
1. "Mama's Broken Heart," Miranda Lambert
A co-write with Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves, "Mama's Broken Heart" juxtaposes falling apart after a breakup and the Southern tradition of keeping your lips closed. "I numbed the pain at the expense of my liver," sings Miranda Lambert over whirling instrumentation. As she continues losing control, her mother reminds her that "it only matters how you look."
READ MORE: George Strait Songs: His Top 20 Tracks, Ranked
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