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Back of The Billboards: '12 Stories' by Brandy Clark...the best album country album of 2013 so far by our count

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Society always celebrates the records that top the Billboard 200 album chart. Back of The Billboards is a Music Times weekly segment that looks at the opposite end: the new record that finished closest to the back of the Billboard 200 for the previous week. We hope to give a fighting chance to the bands you haven't heard of.

Week of 10/25/2013

WHO: Brandy Clark

WHAT: 12 Stories

SPOT: 197

WHY?: Music Times first heard about Brandy Clark when we read a Slate headline that asked if she could "save country music." We rolled our eyes, having read similar overstated questions for dozens of artists across almost as many genres.

Clark isn't the savior of country any more than Arcade Fire is the savior of alternative rock. That being said, she's pretty darn good.

The rising popularity of "alternative country," somewhat similar to the outlaw country movement of the '70s, has been fuelled largely by the successful releases of its female contributors, including Ashley Monroe and Kacey Musgraves, and Clark manages to trump them all. Stories takes the usual themes of troubled relationships and substance abuse and compiles an impressive and consistent dozen tracks. "Stripes" puts a darkly humorous spin on thoughts of murdering a cheating lover, while sad ballads such as "Just Like Him" explain how Clark's characters end up with those lovers to begin with.

12 Stories has the potential to snare the hippest of listeners without changing anything about country music's thematic core, and that's something for Clark to hang her songwriting flag on. By all means, check out this album. 

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