Those looking for what traditionalists call country are hereby requested in the listening room. On her tenth studio album, Terri Clark – the Alberta, Canada native with a Music City soul – dishes up 11 of the genre’s most cherished possessions on a strikingly heartfelt collection.
The aptly titled Classic, now available in the states after a Fall Canadian release, draws on songwriting riches including hits such as Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” and Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind.” Yes, they’ve long been revered as country standards, but when Terri sings with fiery passion on the former, Many a night I’ve laid awake and cried here all night long, simultaneously scorned and lonely, she injects infectious new energy into the songs with an immediate impact.
Backed by a band that includes such Nashville A-list session players as Brent Mason (electric guitar) and The Time Jumpers’ Paul Franklin (pedal steel), Terri moves decisively through the project that aims to pull two classics from each decade starting with the ‘50s. After setting the mood with an antique recording of Terri’s own grandmother covering Kitty Wells’ “The White Circle On My Finger,” Terri launches into Kitty’s 1952 masterpiece, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” thrusting headlong into the tune’s timeless story. Too many times married men think they’re still single, she sings with a conviction and technical prowess that quickly establishes the skill to handle the material. And on the Delbert McClinton-penned song Emmylou Harris made famous, the low-end gear jammer, “Two More Bottles of Wine,” Terri’s inflections and tones show off a compelling sincerity.
Terri’s joined throughout the project by a series of guests spanning Nashville to Canada. Dierks Bentley plays George Jones” to Terri’s “Tammy Wynette” on the pawnshop Honky Tonk, “Golden Ring,” and Tanya Tucker guests on “Delta Dawn,” a song Tanya released herself in 1972. Canadian artists Dean Brody (joining on “I’m Movin’ On”) and Jann Arden (on “Leavin’ On Your Mind”) both make their presence felt with stirring performances, especially on the latter that was made famous by Patsy Cline. However, it’s the combination of Reba and Terri on “How Blue” that steals the show. Originally released on Reba’s 1984 album, My Kind of Country, this version of “How Blue” showcases a stunning chemistry between the two, demanding that they work together again in the future.
Terri packs a suitcase full of heartache into the 37-minute collection. On “Swinging Doors,” originally written and released by Merle Haggard, she sings, My new home has a flashing neon sign, with palpable regret after being kicked out of the one with a bed. But throughout it all, it’s her clear love for the works she chooses that gives the record a fresh sound. Even on the album’s most optimistic song, the Neil Young-penned “Love Is A Rose,” her deep respect for the writing comes through in her graceful melodic ease. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the songs on Classic, because even though we may have heard these songs before, Terri’s powerful performance captures an exciting spontaneity, bringing new life to the collection.
Key Tracks – “How Blue,” “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” “Two More Bottles Of Wine,” “Leavin’ On Your Mind”