Terri Clark Takes On Country’s Classics

TerriBlackHiRes

Canadian country sweetheart Terri Clark figured there was no time like the present to revisit the past.

Released in November, Clark’s latest record Classic, sees the established musician revisiting the song catalogues of some of country music’s most legendary voices including Emmylou Harris, Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire and more.

The album was done out of passion for the music that inspired her.

After selling more than three million records in North America, Clark’s music career ground to a halt of sorts after the release of 2005’s Life Goes On. Though no fault of her own (you could blame record company politics), Clark’s momentum slowed considerably.

In 2009, she reintroduced herself to her fans with The Long Way Home. A short two years later, Clark’s Roots & Wings album was an even greater success thanks to the single “Northern Girl.” Despite winning five Canadian Country Music Association Awards prior to Roots & Wings, her 2011 CCMA win for Female Artist of the Year was a sweet kind of revenge for the artist, helping further cement her status as a career artist.

So perhaps the looming question for Clark is, why release an album of covers when her career has gathered so much momentum?

“Classic is an album that I have been inspired to make for the past five years. It just needed to happen at the right time,” Terri told The Times & Transcript from her Nashville home last week. “After having been on hold with my American record label, I was champing at the bit to make new music, which resulted in The Long Way Home and Roots & Wings.

“At the Juno Awards last year, my record label approached me with the idea of doing a covers record. Before I knew it, I spent my whole summer last year in the recording studio instead of fishing,” she laughed.

If anything, Classic serves as a real full-circle moment for Clark. The album opens with a recording of her grandmother singing the Kitty Wells song “The White Circle On My Finger” before Terri and her band deliver a scorching version of Wells’ song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”

The backstory to the inclusion of her grandmother’s vocals on the album is indeed a good one. Terri’s grandparents were professional country musicians who would often serve as the opening act for international country stars who would pass through their hometown of Montreal. To say they influenced their granddaughter would be a gross understatement.

Poignantly, when Terri was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry (she stands as the lone Canadian female member of the Opry), her grandfather, then 88, accompanied her on stage at the ceremony.

“At 88 years old, my grandfather finally made it to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. It was such a full-circle moment for everyone in the family. The entire family was in tears in the audience. It was quite something to enable my grandfather to do before he passed away.

“I am still not sure what I did to deserve the honour of being a part of the Grand Ole Opry. I wear it like a badge of honour though.”

While making Classic, Terri encountered one welcome problem, however. Knowing that she was going to be covering songs made popular by the likes of Tanya Tucker and Reba McEntire, she extended invites to both of the country legends to perform with her in the studio. She also asked Canadian country star Dean Brody and Dierks Bentley to join her for a couple of duets.

And much to her surprise, everybody said they would love to join in the making of the record.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that they would all be able to contribute to the record. But when Reba McEntire agrees to come to the studio to sing with you, you don’t say no,” Terri laughed. “To have her and Tanya Tucker sing these songs with me, songs that I cut my teeth on, was another incredible full-circle moment. Making Classic was a creative experience that not every artist gets to experience. I am so grateful for the opportunity.”

By the sounds of it, Terri Clark isn’t the only person happy with the way that Classic turned out. She said reviews and tickets sales for the tour that brings her to Casino New Brunswick on Friday night are the best she has seen in a while. She said one of her biggest challenges these days is deciding how to narrow down more than 18 years of music into her show. Not that she is complaining about such a predicament.

“Coming up with a set list every night has been a bit of a struggle for me because I want to play as much of Classic as I can. I also have to keep in mind playing the other hits that people want to hear. It’s a challenge but I haven’t had anyone complain about my set lists yet so I guess I am doing an alright job,” Terri said.

“At the end of the day, I feel really lucky to have people know who I am. All I want is to put on the best shows I can and be a good person between it all. Who knows what the next 17 or 18 years hold for me? The great thing about being in the music business is that you never know what’s around the corner.”

Article published in the April 11, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript