Canada's Terri Clark stands smack dab between Tanya Tucker and Gretchen Wilson as a tough-talkin', bad-girl country star with a strong track record on the Nashville charts. She's got a ton of tunes about drinkin' the boys under the table and keepin' it real, country, and full of twang. Clark also knows how to put on the lip gloss and can sing a pop-country ballad along with the rest of 'em, and has racked up her fair share of Top 40 hits. Here's a quick look at her work...
Terri Clark "Greatest Hits: 1994-2004" (Mercury Nashville, 2004)
An outstanding best-of collection which captures the best of Clark's career while (thankfully) mostly omitting the disastrous pop-crossover material that capsized her career in the late 1990s. Clark's strength really lies in her tough, tomboyish, hard-country approach and when she moved away from what made her unique, in favor of a Shania-like sleekness, she slid way off the charts. A few years later, she came back with some more sassy, robust material, notably "I Wanna Stay Mad," a free-floating, albumless single which climbed up the charts and opened the door for the followup hits like the arch "Girls Lie Too," and "One Of The Guys," an uptempo honkytonker that's sure to do real well. The older tracks on here represent a good cherry-picking of her earlier albums, with strong songs like "Better Things To Do" and "You're Easy On The Eyes," where Clark was really in her element. If you're looking for some Nashville Top 40 that still has some bite in it, this is a mighty fine record.
Terri Clark "The Millennium Collection" (Mercury Nashville, 2006)
This is a more modest best-of set, with only twelve songs... Good stuff, but not a lot of it.
Terri Clark "The Definitive Collection" (Mercury Nashville, 2008)
Terri Clark "Terri Clark" (Mercury, 1995)
(Produced by Keith Stegall and Chris Waters)
A great debut from a husky-voiced hard-country gal whose strong point is good-old fashioned honkytonk pop... Sure, plenty of this material is kinda formulaic, but then again, what isn't formulaic in Nashville these days? The important point is she makes it sound good -- and it feels like her heart is in it when she sings. She scored three Top Ten hits right off the bat with this one -- "Better Things To Do," "If I Were You," and "When Boy Meets Girl" -- but the disc has plenty of other gems, like "The Inside Story," "Was There A Girl On Your Boy's Night Out?" and "Is Fort Worth Worth It," and is worth picking up for these tunes as well. I think she got better as time went on... this disc has some slack moments, but the sound is basically pretty solid. Also worth noting is the fact that these twelve songs were all new material at the time, all written or co-written by Clark and her crew. Recommended!
Terri Clark "Just The Same" (Mercury, 1996)
(Produced by Terri Clark, Keith Stegall and Chris Waters)
There's one song on here called "Twang Thang" that pretty much sums up Clark's appeal. She excels at upbeat, twangy, Southern rock-flavored stompers, and bogs down on slower ballads like the title track, which faltered on the charts, whereas her cover of the old Linda Ronstadt hit, "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" swung up to #5. Clark has a nice, deep, rootsy voice, but I found myself initially elated at the start of many of these songs, then feeling a little let down as the tunes ground on and got kinda wobbly. In general, I think she did better on the dumber, simpler tunes ("You Do Or You Don't) and shakier on the more lyrical numbers. Mostly I think the problem lay with her producers; Clark seems to have more raw talent than they knew what to do with, and was deserving of more than the indifferent production style that doesn't take listeners much further than the opening hooks. Still, this is a pretty rootsy record, worth checking out if you're looking for something better than average from mid-'90s Nashville... and possibly her best record to date!
Terri Clark "How I Feel" (Mercury, 1998)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)
She gets all femmed-up and poppy on here, with mixed results. On the opening track, "I'm Alright," I thought, oh, this won't be so bad... and I marveled at how well her voice rose above the mix. But then the second track ("Now That I've Found You," a #2 hit...) was a painfully florid disaster area. Yuck! In general, I think the softer production and lofty lyrics detract from her strengths -- Clark's a honkytonker, and while her rugged voice helps redeem this somewhat generic soul-searching, self-helpy material, it's still not as much fun as her sassy, uptempo material. Nice to hear Melba Montgomery adding a tune to the mix ("Cure For The Common Heartache, co-written with Leslie Satcher and Larry Cordle), and the album's big hit, "You're Easy On The Eyes," has a some kick to it... But on the whole, this album falls flat. Same old story with seemingly all of Nashville's rootsier hitmakers: after the initial success as a honkytonker, they invariably wimp out a few albums down the line. Oh, well.
Terri Clark "Fearless" (Mercury, 2000)
(Produced by Steuart Smith)
Delving deeper into the trendy, wordy psychobabble and prefab introspection of the times, Clark slipped way down the charts, and -- some would say -- lost her muse on this glossy, dispirited, pop-country outing. She has a great voice, and it's nice to hear her stretch out a bit, but I can't help it -- I find this kind of music pretty irritating... (At least when they're trying to pass it off as "country..." Where's the twang? Where are the singalong choruses? Why in god's name did she have to hook up with friggin' Mary Chapin Carpenter??) Even the most vigorous song on here, "A Little Gasoline," sounds pretty tame and contrived... and how is it possible to make Susannah Clark's "Easy From Now On" sound so soulless? Bleahh. A big disappointment.
Terri Clark "Pain To Kill" (Mercury, 2002)
(Produced by Byron Gallimore, Keith Stegall)
Thankfully, Clark finds her footing again on this disc... Oh yeah, it's still slick and popped up, another densely-layered Nashville production, but at least they put some grit back into her vocals and let her get back to some sassier lyrics. There are plenty of overly-obvious cultural markers and Martina McBrideisms -- songs about the long-suffering Empathic Everywoman, etc. -- but she pulls it off with panache. "I Just Wanna Be Mad" was a big single, and it's an interesting lyric. There are also a couple of outright real-country gems on here, as well, like the pleasantly resonant "Better Than You," a fiddle-drenched weeper worthy of George Jones or Patty Loveless. The productions a little glossier than I'd prefer, but it's still a pretty strong album. Recommended!
Terri Clark "Life Goes On" (Mercury-Nashville, 2005)
(Produced by Bryan Gallimore & James Stroud)
Her timing may be a little off, but this is still a pretty solid album... What with Nashville's latest flirtation with hard-edged, honkytonkin' material, you'd think this would be Clark's moment to shine, and give ol' Gretchen Wilson a run for her money... But Clark must have had this album already in the can for a while; it's a little slicker than I would have thought, even though she still has plenty of grit in the right places. A well-produced record that's a little heavy on the poppish ballads, but certainly no disappointment to either newcomers or fans. (I sure hope the new neo-trad fad lasts long enough for Clark to get her licks in, though... She's been keeping it twangy for years now, and it'd be nice to hear what she can do if she really cuts loose...!) Anyway, with winners like the gut-grinding "I Wish He'd Been Drinking Whiskey" and "Everybody's Gotta Go Sometime" on it, this is a pretty nice option for those of us still willing to give modern-day Nashville a chance. Worth checking out!
Terri Clark "Froggy's Country Storybook Presents: The Ugly Duckling" (Froggy's Country Storybook, 2007)
In between albums, Clark narrated a version of this classic children's tale...
Terri Clark "The Long Way Home" (Capitol Nashville, 2009)
Years before Gretchen Wilson hit the scene, Terri Clark was busy bein' one of the boys... This disc is less rough-and-tumble than her usual fare... It's also not as femmed-out as some of her softer stuff, but she's certainly more ballad than barroom this time around. A few good tunes -- "Poor Girl's Dream" is one of the more vivid lyrics; "Tough With Me" has a catchy beat. I miss the thumping honky-tonk tunes, though... Clark's voice is better suited to the tougher stuff. Well, maybe next time around: she tends to switch directions with each album these days.
Terri Clark "Roots And Wings" (Bare Track Records, 2011)
Terri Clark "Some Songs" (Bare Track Records, 2014)
(Produced by Michael Knox)
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