Prime Cuts: Northern Girl, Smile, The One
Pain and suffering have the ability to make poets out of us. Over the last few years, Clark has had her share of tragedies: from the death of her mother to cancer in 2010, the drying up of her hits, the ensuing loss of her recording contract and her second divorce. Yet the pinch of life has not sanitised her in anyway. Rather, her trails had made her a keener observer of life and this is well reflected on her new album, of which she co-wrote 9 out of the 10 cuts. Relative to her other 7 albums, "Roots and Wings" is more balanced and mature collection. While Clark tries to emulate the tough and witty chic persona in her earlier hits such as "Better Things to Do, "Girls Lie Too" and "You're Easy on the Eye," this time round she does mix in songs that deal with issues that has to do with the heart. Stylistically, this album is far more adventurous and more encompassing. While Clark used to major on the rousing barn burners, this time around she has expanded her palette to include an old fashioned country tune ("Lonesome Last's Call"), a rock tune ("We're Here for a Good Time") and a Kate Wolf type of folk ("Flowers in the Snow").
It is not serendipitous that this album is titled "Roots and Wings." Clark has indeed returned to her Canadian roots with the lead single "Northern Girl." While country music has copious songs extolling the Southern states of America, it is a jolt to hear of Clark singing jubilantly about driving on black ice, tunneling through snow and trying to survive the frigid Canadian winters. Another paean of Canadian origin is Clark's take of Troop's 1977 hit "We Are Here for a Good Time." As the title suggests this is a feel good number that would make for a great soundtrack for a joy ride. Not only has Clark chosen to sing about the land north of the 49th Parallel, she has also collaborated with fellow Canadians such as Victoria Banks and Deric Ruttan. Banks co-wrote with Clark and Tia Sillers the average sounding rocking radio-tailored "Wrecking Ball" which tells of the story of a missions-centered woman. While Ruttan co-wrote with Clark and Sillers the much better "The Good Was Great." "The Good Was Great" is a matured look at a relationship whereby it teaches us to look to the positive sides rather than tooth picked through the bad.
As with the other side of the album's title, Clark has also spread her wings to soar into uncharted territories. "Lonesome's Last Call," a track Clark wrote with Jim Rushing when she was only 22 years old is something you never expect from Clark. A track that sits more comfortably on Patty Loveless' Mountain Soul albums, this is a track that intones with a foreboding ache about people who tether on romance's ending line. "Smile," which features some haunting vocals from Alison Krauss, is Clark at her vulnerable best. Wrapping her mellifluous contralto around this tender tribute to her late mother, this ballad is enough to push us over to tearsville. Again, Clark pushes the envelope with the plaintive "Flowers in the Snow," a poetic adieu to a love that has died, which has a folky Kate Wolf vibe.
Perhaps most autobiographical is "The One" where Clark advises all single gals to find a "love you can't live without" rather than just settling. What is noteworthy about "The One" is that it finds Clark teaming up with songwriter Tom Shapiro again. Shapiro is not only a top tiered country writer but he was crafting many of Clark's earlier hits. "Roots and Wings" is a balanced effort finding Clark finally at home singing about her roots. Yet, it is not too comfortable for Clark as she soars to new heights with her explorative wings.