"Weren't no experiment / These seven years they went / Like a light out of me." – Cory Branan, "The Corner"
It's been a long time since we heard anyting new from Memphis-bred songwriter Cory Branan. After releasing two records ("The Hell You Say" in 2003 and "12 Songs" in 2006), he took a very long hiatus from releasing records.
That's not to say that Branan hasn't been busy. In the past seven years, he's managed to move to Nashville, tour just about everywhere, get signed to Bloodshot records and write and record his third record, "Mutt".
(Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins, used with permission.)
"Mutt" is more upbeat than his first two records, but Branan insists that he hasn't gotten happier. The record is full of themes of surviving and hustling, of travel and heartbreak.The new record's louder songs (like "Jericho" and "Survivor Blues") stand out, but there are still plenty of acoustic songs fans of the first two records. "Standing there with an acoustic guitar interests me when it feels right," Branan said. "A lot of the sound on the first two records came from inexperience.
Though "Mutt" sounds a fuller and more developed than his first two records, Branan's lyrics are still as sharp and lovely as ever. No matter where he's been for the last seven years, the songs are still steeped in Southernness. It could be because they rely heavily on his own life. "I tend to put more personal stuff into a character so that I can get some distance," Branan said.
One of my favorite songs on the record, the cheerful "Karen's Song" is all autobiography. "We're not together anymore, but she's a sweet girl," Branan admitted. "I offered to call it something else, but she didn't mind."
If you pick up a copy of "Mutt" (and you absolutely should), resist the urge to shuffle. The songs have been carefully, thoughtfully ordered, at you should listen to them that way at least once.
Or, you could just go Cory Branan play songs from "Mutt" and his other records (and probably some of the silly songs that have become staples of his live show) at the Hi-Tone on Friday night, July 20. Audra Lee Mays will open. Cover is $10 and the show starts at 10 p.m.
Before you go, take a listen to "Bad Man".