NASHVILLE Anyone who closely follows country music knows that Terri Clark's fourth release for Mercury Nashville should have been in record stores by now.
But No Fear is missing in action at retail, and not even Clark knows when the release will be signed, sealed and delivered.
"It was just caution," said Clark, referring to the decision to record the song "A Little Gasoline," as a last-minute addition to the album.
The move came after Clark turned in a completed album to Mercury. She'd co-written most of the material and recorded it at her home in Nashville over a six-month period with co-producer Steuart Smith.
The additional song, it was decided, would be co-produced by Mercury A&R head Keith Stegall.
But with jammed studio and producer's schedules, the song, penned by Dean Miller and Tammy Rodgers, has yet to be recorded, Clark said.
'The Business Has Gotten A Lot Harder'
Industry observers say this kind of reworking of a "finished" album is becoming increasingly common in Nashville now.
"It seems to happen a lot more these days, because I think the business has gotten a lot harder," said Garth Fundis, who produces Trisha Yearwood, among others. "Nobody has a crystal ball, unfortunately, and there's a lot of opinions that go into finishing a project."
"You never can be too careful with radio and the state of the industry right now," Clark said. "So it's not that we needed the hit, the single I think we all know that we have hits and singles on the album but it was something to kind of bridge the old with the new."
"I think we feel so strongly about what we already have, and we just want to make absolutely sure that it gets heard," Clark added. "It would be a shame for it to not get heard."
More common, Fundis said, is pushing back an album's release date while waiting for new material. "That happens all the time I just finished a project that was extended another year! The artist was a writer and [it was] difficult for them to accept outside material, so it was a matter of waiting until they had written a couple more songs that fit what was being asked for."
That said, Clark hasn't been impervious to a certain amount of frustration at the delay.
Clark said she even tried to set up the recording session herself. "I was getting mic rental gear, I was setting up ProTools days and practically calling background singers myself. My manager called me and said, 'You just need to stop! We're having scheduling problems!'
"I'm in Florida looking at the ocean, and I thought, what am I upset about? I'll go camping," Clark continued. "I plan on working harder at promoting this [album] than I have at anything since the first one," she said. "I'm going to be all over the place, hopefully. So if the album is pushed [back], that's fine, I'll just use this time to go sit in the woods."
Much More Personal Album
No Fear could be a watershed record for Clark. Early buzz holds that it's a much more personal release than her previous efforts, which include a 1995 self-titled debut disc; the follow-up, Just the Same, with the hit single "The Emotional Girl" (RealAudio excerpt); and the 1998 album How I Feel, with the hit single "Now That I Found You" (RealAudio excerpt).
Citing her newfound interest in spirituality and meditation, Clark says the songs on No Fear dig much deeper than her past work. "For me, as a songwriter, the album shows more growth than anything I've ever done before, for sure," she said.
The philosophical title track, co-written with Mary Chapin Carpenter, is already generating a fan response, Clark added.
"I'm playing it live at my shows, and even though the record isn't out yet, I'm already getting mail about it. People are really relating to it, and finding some personal conviction there and finding strength from it."