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Terri Clark travels light

Showcase Live, Foxboro, Mass., October 30, 2010

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Tired of being a cog in the Nashville music-making machine, Terri Clark decided to leave behind the discomfort of a major label to do her own thing. That meant releasing songs that she wanted to record on her own label.

For Clark, now 42, that also resulted in going on tour in a totally different way - solo acoustic surrounded by about a half dozen guitars. Clark, an affable, personable performer, may be onto something.

Clark launched this tour to support "The Long Way Home," from September 2009. Chances are that bringing a full-fledged band would be way too expensive for Clark. However, Clark ran the risk of whether she was capable of filling up the room from a performance standpoint. Fortunately, thanks to her voice, personality and warmth, that proved to be no problem.

Clark played four songs from "The Long Way Home," and they did not sound all that different from her better-known songs.

Performing acoustic (along with all of her own songs) gave the crowd a chance to explore the lyrics more fully while Clark's voice was a key element throughout. New songs A Million Ways to Run, What Happens in Vegas (Follows You Home) and Gypsy Boots all stood up to the rest of Clark's catalogue.

Clark eventually donned her black cowboy hat, which represented a distinct change of pace. She returned to her turbo country days (that was a phrase that someone in the industry used to label her music) - upbeat, more forceful and catchy songs. For the most part, this part of the show was a run through of her hits without feeling the least bit perfunctory.

While Clark said at one point that she would end up have to play dreaded snippets of songs (if a song is worthy, play the whole thing and not cheapen its effect just for the sake of fitting in more songs into the same time frame), that, in reality, only proved to be the case with her meaty reading of Melissa Etheridge's I'm The Only One.

There was another advantage to performing in this manner - it afforded Clark the chance to explain her songs and allow her personality to come out time and again. She came across on the bitter side about the music industry, saying her albums "don't sell shit" in the States (although she still has a good Canadian career going in her homeland), but she also was most appreciative of the response of the faithful - about 550 of them, which she said was the largest crowd on the tour.

Clark certainly was not all dour. She told a very funny story about meeting her hero Loretta Lynn at her museum in Tennessee, with Lynn saying how much she liked Clark. The only problem was that Lynn mixed her up with Holly Dunn of Daddy's Hands fame, a downer for Clark. Despite that, she launched into an upbeat take on Coal Miner's Daughter.

By far, the most heartfelt song proved to be one that Clark has yet to record - I Want You to Smile. Clark explained that her mother had cancer and eventually died. She referred to her mother as her closest friend and praised her mother's strength during her ordeal. Safe to say, there was no talking while Clark told her somewhat lengthy story. After receiving a standing ovation, Clark said, "Try singing it every night."

Not the most upbeat song, but Clark moved the set into higher gear with closing with the driving I Wanna Do It All, Girls Lie Too and an updated, humorous version of Better Things to Do.

Clark showed that life for a musician after the end of record deal was entirely possible. She said she wanted to return here on several occasions, and one believed her. Based on the reception she was accorded by her aging fans , but more importantly the quality of her performance, Clark gave a lot of reason why.