By David Kenney
On Wednesday night at the MacEwan Hall Ballroom, Terri Clark held a family reunion. Tables and chairs were pulled out, enclosed candles topped tables and waitresses served drinks. The only thing missing was a croaky-sounding uncle and some bad jokes. It was Martha Stewart-nice.
Pretty bizarre for a ballroom show.
Instead of the regular stumbling-drunk students trading elbows at the bar, an actual orderly lineup formed for beer and believe it or not, water.
Local singer Steve Pineo started the mellow evening with an acoustic country set. Mixing ’50s country and blues with Chet Atkins guitar picking and Ricky Nelson vocals, Pineo held his own. Singing songs about the wrong woman, Pineo soaked in the room’s mood.
Not a bad start to the reunion.
Prior to Terri Clark’s performance, sounds of not-quite-country artists Shelby Lynne and Lucinda Williams flooded the room. Williams’s drawl and Lynne’s southern sass almost seemed awkward at a "new country" show. Clark isn’t just any "new country" artist though.
Hitting the stage, the Medicine Hat native joined her band on bar-stools for an intimate acoustic evening. Performing mostly selections from her upcoming record Fearless, Clark played the storyteller. Each song featured both humorous and touching detailed description. The Canadian Country Music Award winner’s anecdotes reinforced her charming down-to-earth image.
Such sincerity comes off both live and on Fearless. To be released Sept. 19, many of the new songs show Clark to be a stronger songwriter. One major influence evident in some new tracks is Mary Chapin Carpenter. "Sometimes, Good-bye" sees Clark take on Chapin Carpenter’s vocal style–a pleasant shock. The Chapin Carpenter co-written "No Fear" is possibly the best song Clark’s ever composed. A confident "no regrets" song, it transcends "new country" into singer/songwriter territory. Past the glitz and youth of "new country," Clark has a career. The same can’t be said for other eye-candy country singers.
Other new songs performed included "Empty," "Getting There" and the gorgeous ballad "Take my Time," an ode to patience in love.
Response to Fearless’ first single, "A Little Gasoline," fared best of all the new material. A groovy, spit-in-the-face rocker, "A Little Gasoline" is a mid-tempo dance-hall smash.
Mid-set, Clark switched from balladeering for the appreciative crowd and injected a little livelier rhythm. Favourites "Boy Meets Girl" and "Poor Pitiful Me" drew the crowd’s praise. A take on Jann Arden’s "Good Mother" was also well received.
The combining of a small-frills setting and sound might not bode well for other come-lately country artists. However, Clark has true talent. Her on-stage banter and attention to lyrics may one day find her gracing folk-fest stages. For now, fans of quality country music should attend Clark’s next reunion.