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Terri Clark

No Fear – 2000 (Mercury)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

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CDs by Terri Clark

"It's not a preachy album, but you can definitely hear the underlying tone of some things that I've been learning about," Terri Clark told an interviewer earlier this year, and the title of her latest reflects those things - mostly, an understanding that being "worried about what people think of us....really doesn't matter." The result is a strong, passionate collection that depicts a woman struggling to learn to live in the moment, yearning for both independence and commitment.

Though Clark has a fine voice for traditional country music, you won't findany of that here. Rather, she and co-producer Steuart Smith have opted for a kind of country-rock that's guitar-driven - not surprisingly, since Smith's a guitar wizard - and at once muscular and sensitive. Though the pedal steel, fiddle and banjo (played by the talented Pam Gadd) make occasional appearances, the emphasis is on guitars and some tasty organ, giving the album something of the feel of the best LA country-rock of years past.

As on previous albums, Clark shares in most of the songwriting credits, though not on the first single, "A Little Gasoline," which mates the lyric theme of Jo Dee Messina's "Bye Bye" to less hooky, but ultimately more substantial music. Yet whether it's her song or another's, the singer penetrates to the core of the material, singing with sincerity and conviction - most memorably on the closing cut, "Good Mother," in which her voice is presented with almost painful intimacy, free of the usual studio enhancements and smoothing. Though it's a far cry from classic country in sound, the directness and clarity of emotion here link No Fear not only to Clark's earlier work, but also to that of the country legends she admires. No collection of ditties, this is an album that reveals Terri Clark as a mature, talented artist who has a lot to say.