Bloodshot Records, 2012
REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/16/2012
I actually had the pleasure of seeing Cory Branan live before I heard any of his recorded music. The new guy on Chuck Ragan’s Revival Tour this year, Branan didn’t waste any time making a name for himself wherever he went. A set of blues and spirited folk tales that often seemed made up off the top of his head, Branan’s portion of the tour illuminated his knack for compelling and often comical storytelling, almost like an audio version of a ‘choose your own adventure’ book.
With that said, when this arrived I was expecting more of the same. Long songs and talking mixed with singing and his lightning quick finger picking were on full display the evening I spent watching Branan, but to my surprise, Mutt was a different experience. Though Branan works proficiently with blues, country and folk, his songs here seems less spur-of-the-moment. They are shorter and often shimmer with the sort of beautiful Americana that mirror Ryan Adam’s best moments.
While most songwriters of this genre tend to deliver albums with little variance between songs other than different chords or maybe capo use, Branan works his way through so many different styles here, it’s nearly hard to keep up. “Survivor Blues” early in the disc seems like the song Westerberg never penned, while “Darken My Door” is a song that Jeff Tweedy could takes notes on. The easygoing Tom Petty vibe is prevalent through most of this, with Branan sounding like a more gritty version of voices from the past.
Though this is a sound commonly pursued by former hardcore heroes and previous punk rock enthusiasts, Branan clearly has found a niche entirely his own. His warm, soulful vocals and ability to play rowdy alt-country mixed with compelling balladry (“Snowman") is nothing short of stunning. Much like last year's Crooked Fingers disc Breaks In The Armor, this is a gentle gem that resonates with timeless grace and raw beauty.