12 Stories

Part of the young Nashville cabal that includes Kacey Musgraves and unstoppable hit writer Shane McAnally, Brandy Clark is further proof of commercial country's sea change. Her debut is all airtight craftsmanship, sly wit and precise detailing that treats mainstream style like artisanal fast food. The best songs involve drugs ("Get High," "Take a Little Pill") and vengeful ladies with guns ("Stripes," "Crazy Women"), and even her schmaltz-flirting is impressive ("Hold My Hand"). There's a faint whiff of Obama "guns or religion" condescension in "Pray to Jesus." But mostly her ear is unerring and her characters true — the kind of talent who makes the term "alt-country" unnecessary.