“If Your Life is a Record,” Brandy starts, introducing us to the concept of the whole album from the very first line. I’ll be the Sad Song, the second single from this album is the opening track, it’s production is simple to begin with, and very much authentic to the genre, in fact the opening feels like it picked up where the last album left off before the production progresses to the new sound for this record. A little later on we hear the strings, the flutes and horn section as it builds and so too does the emotion in Brandy’s vocals and in the lyrics. Famed for her lyrics, this might be Brandy’s best record yet, throughout we hear the detailed storytelling we’re used to, but we hear even more honesty and emotion in this album. From the gentle, sad song that opens the record we go straight into an upbeat song, full of humour in Long Walk written by Brandy, Jessie Jo Dillon and Jesse Frasure. Long Walk has a really catchy chorus that you’ll be tapping your foot along to and singing every lyric, the rundown at the end of the chorus is also just as catchy and paints an image of sinking to the bottom of the Ocean. It’s also a song that will pop in to your head and make you smile when someone you don’t like walks into the room! Clark and Jessie Jo Dillon team up with Shane McAnally on the composition of Love is a Fire. Lyrically it’s as clever as an A+, poetic and sultry in its production, sitting somewhere between 3/4 or 6/8 time, it’s waltz type feel makes it all the more romantic. There’s a wonderful melody in the middle of the chorus which is unusual and really makes it a stand out track. One of my favourite songs on the record comes next though, Pawn Shop is quite a heartbreaking number but what really makes this a stand out track, is what makes Brandy a stand out songwriter. Here she draws on two very ordinary, everyday items, a ring and a guitar and builds very detailed, emotive stories and characters to go with them, then ties them together with the Pawn Shop chorus. Whilst the rest of the World writes generic love songs, Brandy still writes relatable songs but in a much more interesting way. Taking influence from her Uncle, who used to own a Pawn Shop, Brandy has delivered a masterpiece which encapsulates everything that Country music should be. From a personal perspective, the second verse really resonates with me being a struggling songwriter myself. It’s also nice to hear Josh Osbourne’s vocals in the background. My mum’s favourite comes next, Who You Thought I Was, inspired by John Prine’s Entrance speech at the Americana Music Awards. Once again the lyrics are clever, the chorus seems to soar whilst the verses are bookended. The verses also seem very light hearted and in the chorus we hear the deeper meaning. My favourite track is Apologies, I heard this live over a year ago now and after one listen I knew all the lyrics to that chorus, whenever I’d apologise to my mum I’d break into song and sing the whole chorus - in fact I’ve probably sung it more times than Brandy herself! When I last interviewed Brandy she said the production on the record was quite different to how I would have heard it live, she wasn’t wrong. Upon first listen I found it a little strange and disconcerting however after a few listens it has cemented itself firmly back in one of my favourite Brandy Clark songs and I have truly come to love the new arrangement and production! The flutes are quite distinct in this number (Hey Brandy, I play the Flute, so if you need a flautist on your next European tour, I’m available!) This is a raw and honest song, and should be applauded for its sincerity. Written by Clark, Scott Stepakoff and Forest Glen Whitehead, we might have found a new dream team! Brandy then teams up with Randy Newman for the Jaws inspired, political number, Bigger Boat. Again we see Brandy’s songwriting prowess with lines such as “Is there anything that ain’t giving cancer to Rats” a lyric you would never think would go well in a song but actually really works! Again it’s a fun, light hearted, upbeat number and Randy Newman brings his own flare to the track. Over the last two or three weeks of listening to this album, the song that has grown on me the most and that has been a bit of a slow burner with me is Bad Car. The whole song is bookended by the lyrics “I know it’s a bad car, I know it’s a piece of junk, I know the best tire on it is in the trunk” it’s a clever lyric. The chorus changes its lyrics and that’s where the detailed stories lie. It’s a very stripped back production, no horns, strings or flutes on this track. McAnally and Clark are the writers of Who Broke Whose Heart. She gets really real in this one, laying her feelings on the line and even using expletives to deliver the point in the chorus. Another track that grew on me and became a favourite from this album is Can We Be Strangers. The chorus is simple, the concept is simple yet hasn’t been sung before. But despite its simplicity the lyrics leave so much room for the melody and so it’s easy to pick up and sing along to. The production and the arrangement really add to this song, it’s like it was written for strings and horns. The album comes to a close with The Past is the Past co-written by Brandy and two more of my favourite writers Luke Laird and Mr Barry Dean! It’s a fantastic way to end the album, again it is full of clever little lines, predominantly in the chorus but I like the last line of the verses “let your heartbreak beat to the radio” and in the chorus one of the many stand out lines is “This is where the memories we made start catching dust in a picture frame.” Throughout the whole album the production is interesting, the use of horns, strings and flutes alongside traditional country instrumentation works effectively. Though on paper it looks busy, the arrangement is not too bold and in your face and gives plenty of room for Brandy’s vocals and astonishing lyrics to sit at the forefront and shine like the diamonds they are. This is the album of the year, the album of the decade, the album that truly reflects everything that Country music stands for and a real masterclass in lyric writing.