13 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

After a decade’s worth of albums, Cory Branan remains hard to classify—he’s too oddly poetic for country, too small-town and sentimental for indie rock. On his own terms, though, he’s an all-American visionary who tosses off emotional insights and weird flights of fancy with a bleary-eyed nonchalance. Mutt confirms his high stature among today’s singer/songwriters, as well as his stubborn refusal to rein in his genre-blurring sound. His lyrical landscapes are studded with stale cigarettes, bad haircuts, and soiled moonbeams, all used to highlight the damaged love affairs he seems obsessed with. “A heart is a horrid cocoon” he opines in “There, There, Little Heartbreaker,” typical of Mutt’s jaundiced yet tender sense of romance. Branan’s dusty, often half-spoken vocals maintain the album’s focus through a variety of settings, ranging from ‘60s folk (“The Corner”) to roadhouse country (“Karen’s Song”) and gypsy cabaret (“The Snowman”). On “Yesterday,” he makes a credible stab at John Mellencamp–ish heartland rock, even quoting “Jack and Diane” in the process.

EDITORS’ NOTES

After a decade’s worth of albums, Cory Branan remains hard to classify—he’s too oddly poetic for country, too small-town and sentimental for indie rock. On his own terms, though, he’s an all-American visionary who tosses off emotional insights and weird flights of fancy with a bleary-eyed nonchalance. Mutt confirms his high stature among today’s singer/songwriters, as well as his stubborn refusal to rein in his genre-blurring sound. His lyrical landscapes are studded with stale cigarettes, bad haircuts, and soiled moonbeams, all used to highlight the damaged love affairs he seems obsessed with. “A heart is a horrid cocoon” he opines in “There, There, Little Heartbreaker,” typical of Mutt’s jaundiced yet tender sense of romance. Branan’s dusty, often half-spoken vocals maintain the album’s focus through a variety of settings, ranging from ‘60s folk (“The Corner”) to roadhouse country (“Karen’s Song”) and gypsy cabaret (“The Snowman”). On “Yesterday,” he makes a credible stab at John Mellencamp–ish heartland rock, even quoting “Jack and Diane” in the process.

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About Cory Branan

A singer/songwriter with a sharp, literate style and a gift for storytelling, Cory Branan matured into a signature artist in the contemporary folk and roots music communities. Born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in the Memphis suburb of Southaven, Branan was surrounded by music from an early age. His father Dallas played drums in local bands during his downtime from work, while his grandfather was a skilled guitarist and his great-grandfather could play violin. By his teens, the younger Branan was playing death metal and eventually fronted a Black Sabbath cover band. It wasn't until he was in his early twenties and received a degree from the University of Memphis that he explored the music of John Prine, a move that led him to return to his guitar and start writing songs. In 2000, the Memphis chapter of NARAS awarded Branan the Phillips Award for Newcomer of the Year before he had even cut his debut album.

With the honors rolling in, Branan self-released his first album, The Hell You Say, in 2001. Branan struck a deal with Madjack Records, and the label reissued The Hell You Say in 2002. 12 Songs followed in early 2006, also released by Madjack. Branan parted ways with Madjack and teamed with independent "insurgent country" label Bloodshot Records for the release of his third LP, 2012's Mutt, the title referring to the many styles and influences that inform his songs. In a follow-up that was swift by Branan's standards, 2014 brought his fourth long-player, The No-Hit Wonder, which included guest appearances from Craig Finn and Steve Selvidge of the Hold Steady, and Jason Isbell. The album was well-received by critics, with Rolling Stone cited it as one of the 40 best Country Albums of the Year. Branan's fifth full-length release, 2017's Adios, was described by the songwriter as a "loser's survival kit," dealing with loss and disappointment in witty but incisive fashion. ~ MacKenzie Wilson & Mark Deming

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