Your Life Is a Record can't help but feel like a response to Big Day in a Small Town, the 2016 album that found singer/songwriter Brandy Clark leaping into the world of major labels after carving out a career as one of country music's most successful songwriters. Clark didn't wind up cracking country radio in 2016, which may explain why 2020's Your Life Is a Record feels a bit like a retreat from the rat race, even if it finds her reuniting with Big Day's producer, Jay Joyce. While Clark isn't turning a blind eye to the modern world -- indeed, she addresses it directly on "Bigger Boat," a wry shuffling paean to inclusion sung with Randy Newman -- she's certainly not spending much time chasing trends, choosing to record an album the old-fashioned way: accentuating a cozy acoustic quartet with the lush sounds of the Memphis Strings and Horns. The instrumentation manages to be simultaneously intimate and luxurious, a sound that not only suits Clark's impeccably crafted tunes but enhances them. Far from seeming ostentatious, the Memphis Strings and Horns help tease out the heartache and humor in her songs, while also giving her a sumptuous bed for her most soulful singing to date. Clark doesn't over-sing, which is appropriate because she also doesn't overwrite. Subtlety is her strength and that skill is still evident in her witty, elegant turns of phrase, but the distinguishing characteristic of Your Life Is a Record is warmth. From its enveloping sound to its empathetic tales, the album feels openhearted and comforting, a sensibility that helps the record seem charmingly out of step with the times. It's part of a lineage that stretches back to Bobbie Gentry and through Roseanne Cash and Shelby Lynne, an album that feels like a classic not just through its sound but through its depth of feeling.
Your Life Is a Record Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine