Classic Clark

Terri Clark might as well have called her new album Cloud Nine instead of Classic, because that’s where the singer/songwriter feels she’s residing after having the opportunity to record a bunch of her all time favourite country songs. The album includes standards like Emmylou Harris’ Two More Bottles Of Wine plus honky tonk nuggets like Merle Haggard’s Swinging Doors. What is consistent about all of the covers is that they bristle with energy; there are no signs of the Nashville Strings on this baby. Terri, on the telephone line just before heading out on a west to east tour of Canada, says she wanted to update the sound of the songs and the result is cool country for now people.

“I wanted to modernize the songs,” she says. “I did not want to absolutely copy them and sonically make them sound more retro. I wanted to do something different and take advantage of modern day technology and sonic bigness. A sixteen-year-old who listens to Rascal Flatts may never have heard the songs on Classic before, but I’d like them to be just as loud and just as good as the newer stuff when kids hear them on the car stereo. Even though these are covers of classic songs, you have to beef them up a bit and make them your own.”

[quote]I’m having way more fun time now than I did in 1996[/quote]Beef is something Terri knows something about, having been raised in Medicine Hat, Alberta. During her childhood her musical grandparents were an influence on her and now she’s able to return the favour by having her late grandmother appear on Classic. The record kicks off with a snippet of a Kitty Wells song recorded long ago by the family matriarch.

“I’ve had that recording in my possession for about 30 years,” Terri enthuses. “My grandparents played professionally and they recorded a couple of tunes back in the fifties. It’s a song called The White Circle On My Finger that leads right into my version of another Kitty Wells song, It Wasn’t God That Made Honky Tonk Angels. When we got the idea of recording an album of songs from the golden era of country it seemed like the perfect thing to do.”

Some of the standout songs in an album of standouts feature duets with Nashville’s elite including Dierks Bentley on the George Jones/Tammy Wynette hit Golden Ring, Tanya Tucker on a remake of her early hit Delta Dawn, and Reba McEntire on How Blue, a song that was originally a number one song for Reba in 1984. Terri revealed how she was able to corral some of these big names.

“I have a bit of a rapport with Reba because I toured with her and we were already friends. As for the other artists I was really surprised and shocked and grateful that everyone said they would participate. I was only planning on doing two duets but then five people said yes; that’s a good problem to have.”

Perhaps the most poignant moment on the album is Terri’s heartfelt rendition of Glen Campbell’s Gentle On My Mind. The song brings back fond memories of Campbell’s original and also serves as a tribute to him as he struggles with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

“I felt like the project wouldn’t be complete without a Glen Campbell song, especially because of what he’s going through health wise” Terry says. “I’ve always liked that song although it’s not a highly likely one for a female to sing because it’s about a rambler who goes from place to place. I didn’t change the lyrics and play the pronoun game to make it come from a woman’s perspective. I did it as it was written by John Hartford.”

One thing that is quite apparent on Classic is the Canadian thread that runs through the record. Terri covers Neil Young’s Love Is A Rose as well as Nova Scotian Hank Snow’s I’m Movin’ On, the first single which features a duet with yet another Canuck, Dean Brody. Perhaps the only unlikely homegrown act on the album is Terri’s Twitter pal Jann Arden.

[quote]There’s a certain place you get to where you realize it’s all gravy from here on in and I’m having the time of my life.[/quote]“Yeah, sometimes the tweeting between us kind of gets out of hand,” she laughs. “We’ve always been friends and for some time we’ve batted around the idea of doing something together. It’s really not that unlikely for her to be on this album because we do the Patsy Cline song Leavin’ On Your Mind. Every female artist, country or otherwise, knows Patsy Cline’s stuff. She blurred the borders of country and pop back in the sixties so it was a natural thing to have Jann on it, and she knocked it out of the park.”

If you happen to catch Terri on her tour you’ll find that she devotes the entire mid-portion of her show to Classic, performing seven or eight songs from the album. The set includes costume changes, nostalgic images and props, including an original microphone stand on loan from the Grand Ole Opry. (“We’re going to transport people back in time.”) For Terri, however, there’s no time like the present as she views the world from high atop Cloud Nine.

“I’m having way more fun time now than I did in 1996,” she admits. “Back than I didn’t realize that my career would last and I was afraid that every show might be my last or that I might just be some sort of flash in the pan. There’s a certain place you get to where you realize it’s all gravy from here on in and I’m having the time of my life.”

Photograph by: Ivan Otis

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