The No-Hit Wonder

Cory Branan

Bloodshot Records, 2014

http://www.corybranan.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/13/2014

A lot has happened in the two years since Cory Branan's 2012 album Mutt. After getting married, having a couple kids and facing loss in his family, this Nashville by way of Mississippi country rock hero has altered his view of songwriting so as to embrace the comforts of home versus the nomadic road warrior existence of his younger years.

If you're not familiar with Branan's work, he has some deep roots in the area of punk turned Americana artistry, often being lumped into a league with Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry or Jon Snodgrass. To the casual ear, Branan might sound like another rising voice in the thick Nashville scene of twang-influenced rock. However, upon deeper inspection, it's clear he's paid his dues in spades, rising up from the gritty DIY basement scene. Country punk legends Lucero even referenced him in their classic tune “Tears Don't Matter Much,” and celebrity admirers such as Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), Jason Isbell and Austin Lucas help out on vocals here while players from The Black Crowes, Justin Townes Earle and Waylon Jennings provide the instrumentation. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album opens with the soulful country rocker “You Make Me,” a song dedicated to the woman who completes Branan. The upbeat pace is maintained with “The No-Hit Wonder,” which shuffles like a barnyard anthem. “Only You” trims the pace back and gets heavy on the keys before the rousing “Sour Mash,” which seems like it could incite a bar room brawl.

The first half of this album is superb and illustrates Branan's penchant for compelling storytelling and rustic melodies. However, “Missing You Fierce” alone trumps everything and alone is worth the price of admission. Hands down his best tune to date, it's a driving alt-country tune where Branan's whiskey stained voice aches about long distance love. Late in the disc Branan gets more expansive and channels his blues skills on “C'mon Shadow” and his jazz undertones on “All I Got And Gone.”

Although Branan may never have a #1 single on the FM dial, several of these songs have mass appeal and could easily be hits for the indie-rock crowd with an ear for folky, rootsy Americana. Although there isn't a dull moment in any of Branan's releases, the first time listener may as well start here, as it is his best to date. For the longtime fans, well, you probably already own it and would agree with me that it's nothing short of fantastic.

Rating: A-

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