My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Terri Clark – ‘Classic’

The past few years has seen many a covers album by the female country stars of the 1980’s and ’90s. One by one, Lorrie Morgan, Wynonna Judd, Rosanne Cash, Patty Loveless and others have delivered varying sets of their takes on yesterday’s hits. On her latest album for her own Baretrack Records, Terri Clark is singing classic country made famous by greats like Kitty Wells, Hank Snow, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard, and throwing in more contemporary material from Linda Ronstadt, Glen Campbell and Reba McEntire.

With the same five-piece country band, she gives fairly routine renditions on several songs. For the most part Clark swaggers and swings, cries and carries on at just the right moments like the seasoned performer and lifetime country music fan she is. The biggest flaw to be found on this album is the production on some tracks. “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin'” is given the boot-scootin’ treatment, amped up to a breakneck shuffle which saps the spunky, soap-in-your-mouth ultimatum out of Loretta Lynn’s lyrics. While “Delta Dawn” benefits from a breezier production that allows the original Southern gospel sound to remain intact and Tanya Tucker proves to still be at the top of her game and Reba’s bent-note delivery of “How Blue” proves to be as good as ever too, there’s a redundancy to these recordings. Fans of either song will likely stick with the originals.

At her commercial peak, Clark shone brightest because of her confident country-is-cool charisma, and the best tracks here benefit from that. Fiddles cry as she tears into Merle Haggard’s “Swingin’ Doors” with her best back of the throat ache and she likewise summons just the right amount of young naiveté in her voice to sell Emmylou Harris’ “Two More Bottles of Wine” convincingly. Again, Clark’s vocal chops prove to be her greatest strength on “Gentle On My Mind”, which is given a simple acoustic and three-part harmony reading. On it, the singer reveals a storytelling ability yet to be heard on her original material.

The lesser half of Classic comes off as above average karaoke and works more as an homage to their original interpreters. The better half comes when Terri Clark is interpreting the songs herself instead of paying tribute to the her favorite singers. She’s got the goods to sell.  I only wish she had brought the other half.

Grade: B-

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9 responses to “Album Review: Terri Clark – ‘Classic’

  1. Michael A. November 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Spot on assessment. It is a perfectly fine/good/acceptable effort… fun and easy to listen to, but, for me, nothing jumped out as special enough that I will feel compelled to listen to it next year. That said, this is one of only a few full albums I’ve listened to this year and I think I enjoyed it more than a couple of the other covers projects you cited in your opening paragraph.

  2. Occasional Hope November 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I like this one a lot, and thought it was the best thing Terri’s done in years. I

  3. Razor X November 20, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    I also like this one a lot. I think it’s the best thing Terri has EVER done and one of the best of the cover albums we’ve heard in the past few years. I quite liked the way some of these old classics received some updated production without sacrificing their integrity. It’s hard for anyone to put their own stamp on a classic, but Terri did give each of these songs something a little new. “How Blue” and “Delta Dawn” were my favorites but I enjoyed them all. The inclusion of a clip of Kitty Wells’ “This Small White Circle On My Finger” as the intro to “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” was a nice touch. This is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.

  4. Luckyoldsun November 21, 2012 at 12:12 am

    I’ve only heard clips, but from the sound of it, Terri Clark seems to be trying to beat a lot of these songs into submission.

  5. Michelle November 21, 2012 at 12:14 am

    I like classic albums I have Tanya’s My Turn which was great and I think I will buy this too. Love all those classic songs.

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  7. Leeann Ward November 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    I’m with Razor X and Ocasional Hope. I really enjoyed this album and I like it better than anything else she’s done. Then again, I’ve really only been a moderate to lukewarm fan of Terri Clark’s all along, but I do think this is one of the better covers albums.

  8. J.R. Journey November 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I like this album quite a bit too – and I hope my review reads that way. I really enjoy “Gentle On My Mind” – even more than Campbell’s or any other recording I’ve heard of the song. But I do think it’s uneven and I’m with Michael that it’s only a “fine/good/acceptable” album when Terri Clark has the chops to have made it a five star release. There are still several really strong tracks here and I’d rank it in the middle of the other like-minded covers albums mentioned – somewhere between Patty Loveless’s Sleepless Nights and Lorrie Morgan’s awful A Moment In Time.

  9. Paul W Dennis January 5, 2013 at 8:52 am

    I acquired this album a couple of months ago but didn’t get around to listening to it until recently. It’s a pretty good album that walks the fine line between paying homage and expressing herself in these finely crafted old songs. I love the way she opens the album, with a snippet of Kitty Wells before launching into “Wild Side of Life”.

    I agree with J.R. Journey that “Gentle On My Mind” is the best track on the album (although I still prefer the versions of Glen Campbell, John Hartford and Dean Martin).

    I appreciate that Terri had the courage to tackle the #1 record country of all time, Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On”. Her version doesn’t succeed completely (it’s hard convincingly converting a quintessentially male song into a female version) but she succeeds in breathing new life into the old classic (in fact the oldest song on the album, written in the late 1940s and recorded in 1950) .

    The only real missteps are “Don’t Come A’Drinkin’ ” which is inappropriately treated, and “Love Is A Rose” , a mediocre Neil Young song that Ronstadt managed to salvage.

    This is a very good album – I’d give it a B+

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