Album Review: Terri Clark – The Long Way Home

Blake Boldt | November 19th, 2009

terri-clark-the-long-way-homeIn the mid-‘90s, she was the rare female hat act among a sea of young studs in Stetsons. Now, Grand Ole Opry member Terri Clark is standing out once again with The Long Way Home, her first self-released disc since leaving Mercury late last year. Unable to fit onto country radio’s rigid playlists (four American singles failed to crack the top twenty since her sole #1 hit, 2004’s “Girls Lie, Too”), Clark has returned to her native Canada and explored a more-organic sound that supports some of her most candid writing. Passing up the polished songcraft south of the border, Clark exceeds expectations on this tight-knit, yet diverse set.

For the first time, it’s hat’s off: Clark’s ready to let her roots (a dark-auburn color, by the way) show on the album cover, and the contents here are just as revealing. Clark’s seventh studio album shows a newfound wisdom and focus as the singer enters her 40s with new challenges in her career and home life. Musically, the album isn’t far removed from Nashville product; it’s the weighty material that lifts it a cut above Clark’s major label albums. As the sole producer, Clark laces these ten tuneful tracks with mournful moments of fiddle and steel that echo her recent turmoil. The corny novelty of “What Happens in Vegas (Follows You Home)” is the one weak link on a disc that deliberates her major-label departure, her mother’s battle with cancer and a recent divorce; these songs ring with a pure, vulnerable heartache.

Clark’s singing is stout, cocksure and, when necessary, it shines with a poignant intimacy that adds gravity even to lighter fare such as the gently-chugging “If You Want Fire” and the groovy “Poor Girl’s Dream.”

From a girl dropping her hard-earned cash on laundry detergent (“Poor Girl’s Dream”) to an older woman at the bedside of her dying best friend (“If I Could Be You”), Clark instills her characters with the understanding and compassion that come from her own experience. The most telling ballad is “A Million Ways to Run,” with a woman recounting days “at the bottom of a bottle, getting numb with every swallow.” Perennial harmony partner Vince Gill lends his sweet tenor on the stripped-down “The One You Love,” where Clark admits “When someone’s slippin’ away right before your eyes/How useless we are is a painful surprise,” seemingly haunted by her own helplessness.

She’s still got her feisty, fearless spirit, though, steering her twangy alto towards hope and even humor when the blues arrive. That winsome wit’s most evident on first single “Gypsy Boots,” a sultry, playful midtempo that shows she’s built of restless stuff. “I’m a country song, the kind that makes you cry,” she admits to a would-be mate. After all these years, she knows those are the ones you remember long after the last note. Likewise, The Long Way Home, the album of Clark’s career, is one for the memory banks.

4 Stars

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  1. Leeann Ward
    November 19, 2009 at 7:24 am

    I’ve considered getting this album, but I’m still not sold based on the Amazon clips. Something about the production, I think.

  2. Joseph Smith
    November 19, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Terri Clark had a number one hit in 1998 with “Your Easy On The Eyes.” This makes, “Girls Lie Too” her second number one single to date.

  3. Drew
    November 19, 2009 at 10:21 am

    I definitely wouldn’t give it a 4. Half the tracks, in my opinion, are garbage. There are some standouts, as pointed out in the review… but there’s just not enough strong material for it to hold up.

  4. ibegtodiffer
    November 19, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I have been a Terri Clark fan for only a few years. She is the only one to change my mind about country music. When you see her live you will understand completely. She produced this cd. It is all her. I believe if you listen and hear everything, you will enjoy this album immensely. There are only a few women Country artists, who play the guitar. Terri Clark makes her own Symphony out of playing the guitar. She knows no boundaries, when it comes to making her talents heard. Terri Clark is in a league of her own, when it comes to making her guitar sing. Speaking of singing, she has a vocal range like no other as well. Terri Clark will open up your heart and mind when it comes to music. “The Long Way Home” is the best in Terri Clark’s career, thus far. You will not be disappointed by picking up a copy of Terri Clark’s album “The Long Way Home”. Thank you.

  5. Stormy
    November 19, 2009 at 11:16 am

    There are actually quite a few female country singers who play the guitar.

  6. Chris N.
    November 19, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Be careful — when I suggested that “What Happens in Vegas” was a dud on an otherwise four-star album I got deluged with hate mail from Terri Clark superfans. Nothing enrages superfans like an almost-but-not-quite-perfect review.

  7. Jordan Stacey
    November 19, 2009 at 11:44 am

    She’s my favorite artist, but I agree “What Happens In Vegas) is a dud, it doesn’t even fit with the rest of the album. The rest however is probably the best work she’s done in her whole career. I’m hoping more people check this one out, it’s a shame that it’s being ignored.

  8. Jordan Stacey
    November 19, 2009 at 11:44 am

    She’s my favorite artist, but I agree “What Happens In Vegas) is a dud, it doesn’t even fit with the rest of the album. The rest however is probably the best work she’s done in her whole career. I’m hoping more people check this one out, it’s a shame that it’s being ignored.

  9. Annie
    November 19, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Great review Blake. And spot on. Her voice sounds just lovely on this album. I hope she’s happy with this record. It appears that she finally got some material that’s worthy of her. It’s mature, thoughtful, & I like the production throughout. Terri’s like fine wine…

  10. Chris D.
    November 19, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I really like this album a lot- “A Million Ways To Run” and “If You Want Fire” are my 2 favorites, for sure.

  11. Occasional Hope
    November 19, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I was disappointed in this – it sounds over-produced to me.

  12. Razor X
    November 19, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I was disappointed in it as well; I was expecting a more stripped-down, rootsy album, but it doesn’t seem much different from what she released during her major label days.

  13. Leeann Ward
    November 19, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Yes, that’s the problem I seem to have with what I’ve heard of it. It doesn’t sound removed from what we’ve already been hearing from her, most of which has never really appealed to me. I don’t even like the song with Vince due to overproduction.

  14. Leeann Ward
    November 19, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    I don’t think I’d be as disappointed if it hadn’t been billed as a departure for her though. Like Razor, the press leading up to it made me think that it would be less slick.

  15. Jon
    November 19, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Ah, yes, raw, rootsy, that’s what we want. You know it’s real country when it’s out of tune, badly played and sung by someone who sounds like they gargled with gravel.

  16. Leeann Ward
    November 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t think “stripped down/rootsy” (which is what Razor actually said) means what you’ve described, Jon.

  17. Razor X
    November 19, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    You know it’s real country when it’s out of tune, badly played and sung by someone who sounds like they gargled with gravel.

    Who said anything about any of that?

  18. Jon
    November 19, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Sorry, I guess that was unfair. I just don’t understand why folks would have expected anything more stripped down or “rootsy” (whatever the hell that does mean) from Clark; there seems to be an underlying assumption that the aspects of a major label artist’s work that you don’t like must surely be the fault of the label, and not the artist’s own inclinations, and the evidence for that – at least in this case – is pretty thin. The only sense in which I’ve seen the word “departure” used with respect to this album relates to her having left – departed from – Mercury.

  19. Leeann Ward
    November 19, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I didn’t quote the word departure.. I simply used it as the sense that I got from the press surrounding the album and my sense wasn’t based on the literal use of the word.

    Terri Clark has said herself, that this album is different from her other albums,. She’s said that she’s happy to finally have the freedom to do what she wants to do, which I interpreted, perhaps wrongly, as being different from her other albums. Since, to me, this album sounds, sonically, much like her past albums, I’m not understanding the differences that she’s referring to.

  20. Stormy
    November 19, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Jon: If people weren’t craving that, we wouldn’t have created an entire genre out of it now would we?

  21. Jon
    November 19, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Terri Clark has said herself, that this album is different from her other albums,. She’s said that she’s happy to finally have the freedom to do what she wants to do, which I interpreted, perhaps wrongly, as being different from her other albums. Since, to me, this album sounds, sonically, much like her past albums, I’m not understanding the differences that she’s referring to.

    In my experience, artists and fans don’t always have the same perspective when it comes to an a project being different from those that preceded it. What interview stuff I’ve seen suggests that the differences relate more to the content of the songs than to anything else.

    @Stormy: what genre would that be?

  22. Leeann Ward
    November 19, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    “In my experience, artists and fans don’t always have the same perspective when it comes to an a project being different from those that preceded it. What interview stuff I’ve seen suggests that the differences relate more to the content of the songs than to anything else.”

    I actually can’t disagree with you there. I’m guessing you’re right on what she meant.

    Stormy,
    I think you’re generalizing.

  23. Leeann Ward
    November 19, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    …Or oversimplifying.

  24. Rick
    November 19, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    I too had heard the hype about Terri heading off in a new direction and then I saw the “Gypsy Boots” video on GAC and thought “Gee, what’s so different about that?” I’ve never been much of a fan of Terri’s music and I’m not likely to be any more interested now from what I’ve heard off this album. Overall I find fellow Canadian Lisa Brokop’s music far more interesting than Terri’s.

    PS – Does anyone know what that strange little car/van thing is that’s featured in the “Gypsy Boots” video out there on those desert roads? I have no idea what that vehicle is, but it sure is cool! (lol)

  25. J.R. Journey
    November 19, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    This is one of my favorite releases of the year. I think this disc shows off Terri Clark as a songwriter more than anything else. And with the songs, she’s revealing more of herself than she ever has before. I don’t see too much wrong with the productions – with the exception of the tracks I didn’t care for, the lyrics are boring too, so the production was a secondary issue on songs like ‘What Happens In Vegas’ and ‘Poor Girl’s Dream’.

    ‘A Million Ways To Run’ is definitely the centerpiece of the album, and one of Clark’s finest moments. ‘If You Want Fire’ has grown on me a lot too, its chugging beat and melody keep drawing me to it. A mighty fine album indeed.

  26. Razor X
    November 19, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Sorry, I guess that was unfair. I just don’t understand why folks would have expected anything more stripped down or “rootsy” (whatever the hell that does mean) from Clark; there seems to be an underlying assumption that the aspects of a major label artist’s work that you don’t like must surely be the fault of the label, and not the artist’s own inclinations, and the evidence for that – at least in this case – is pretty thin.

    I don’t dislike Terri Clark or her music, though I did get somewhat bored with it because she seemed to be doing the same type of song over and over again. In all fairness, it wasn’t her fault. Radio seemed to only want the uptempo, semi-humorous stuff from her and anytime she tried to depart from that they wouldn’t play it. I got the impression from some interviews she gave that she was a bit frustrated about this, and I assumed that once she was recording independently that she might go in a different direction.

  27. Matt B.
    November 20, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Rick,

    Is your reason for not liking Terri Clark because she’s more ‘manly’ in her appearance than you’d like? Just curious…

    FYI, Terri left BNA/Sony Nashville.

  28. justbeyourself
    November 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    @Rick well thank you for this statement. And not more “manly”, just herself. Just wondering… would he say that about the 6’5 basketball player bouncing all over the court, and in shorts and a tank? One day some people will look at some of these posts and say, they were misinformed or judging too harshly. Terri Clark does what she does because she LOVES playing. I will continue to support, and hear her music and fantastic guitar playing.

  29. justbeyourself
    November 20, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    So, Matt I’ll actually thank you.

  30. Rick
    November 20, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Matt, I’ve never considered Terri to be “manly” in appearance, but now that you mention it…(lol) The way Terri is built she would make a great “farm wife” on the windswept plains on Alberta, so she’s missed her true calling! I’m disappointed on one can identify that cool vehicle in the “Gypsy Boots” video. I wonder if its a vintage Fiat thingie? Hmm..

  31. Bobby P.
    November 20, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    I HATED her vocals on “Gypsy Boots.” She sounded like Gretchen Wilson’s screechy range (think “All Jacked Up”) and was about a quarter pitch off even with a LOT of pitch correction. Shame, since besides the cringeworthy Johnny Cash namedrop, it was a solid song.

  32. Joe
    November 20, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    When she moved from Mercury to BNA, I think we were all just allowed to think there’d be some grand reinvention a la Toby Keith, and I really anticipated it. For that reason, “Dirty Girl” was a disappointment. “In My Next Life” wasn’t bade.

    So I lowered the bar, and then … “Gypsy Boots”?! What the hell was that? Radio here in Canada played “If You Want Fire” often enough. I like it. Not enough to get the entire album though.

    It seems we’re all victims of our own expectation which, I agree, was (somehow, at some time) promised us (I think) from Terri herself.

  33. Felipe
    November 21, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Terri herself said that she was re-recording The One You Love with a more stripped down version and etc, but I don’t think it’s much different…

    Anyway, I don’t have a problem with contemporary country, so I think it’s a good album, with a few exceptions.

  34. Carolyn
    November 22, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    How many of you have taken the time to read Terri’s comments about each of the songs she wrote on this album?? Perghaps if you had, you might not be so negative. I love the album, it’s the real thing–nothing phony about it. she’s grown up and this al;bum shows it!!

  35. Jon
    November 22, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    FYI, Terri left BNA/Sony Nashville.

    D’oh. Sorry about that. Honestly, I hadn’t been following her very closely for the last few years until I started writing with her fiddle player ;-).

  36. Stormy
    November 22, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Carolyn: If the songs are good why do we need external stories to like them. Also, she has grown up? Isn’t she 40? Shouldn’t she have done that a long time ago? (I didn’t even really notice she was not grown up.)

  37. Janet
    February 15, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Terri Clark is one of the greatest country music singers I have ever heard.She has heart and soul and determination and attitude and that`s what makes a great singer. Every song she has ever sung is great and not only that.Terri Clark keeps every song that she sings country.I believe one day she will be the greatest of all times.I have all her cd`s accept one which is road rage live and I`ve done ordered it on her website and I will be getting it soon in the mailbox.Terri Clark is right up there with Lee Ann Womack,Jo Dee Messina,Kasey Chambers,Sherrie Austin,Sara Evans,Martina McBride,Faith Hill,Tammy Cochran, George Strait,Alan Jackson,Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney. I will forever be a Terri Clark fan.

    Sincerely,

    Janet Templeton

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