Ten years ago Rolling Stone put Cory Branan on their annual Hot List. In that time he’s put out two solid solo albums, been name checked in one of Lucero’s best songs, and barnstormed the country with the likes of Chuck Ragan and Brian Fallon. And now, ten years after Rolling Stone predicted big things for Cory, he’s put out one of the best albums of the year so far.
“Mutt”, his first release for Bloodshot records, is a fantastic introduction to Cory Branan. Sharp songwriting, stellar guitar work, and vocals that dance a razor’s edge between Warren Zevon’s clear timbre and a Tom Waits growl. Branan’s songs balance the busy word smithing of early Springsteen with the sharp, no-nonsense approach Tom Petty often favors. And he straddles the fence between Americana and Punk as admirably as his fellow road warriors on the Revival tour circuit have.
I dropped the names above because Branan doesn’t shy away from his influences, and that’s pretty god damned refreshing. This is the kind of album that would’ve bounced from my Walkman to my car’s tape deck in summer’s past. The place this happens most strongly for me is on “Yesterday.”. Not only does he name check John Mellencamp, the song sounds like “The Return of Jack and Diane,” and comes within a hair’s breadth of lifting everything that made that song memorable.
And that’s when I went all in on this album. By the time you get to that song ( just about halfway through) it’s abundantly clear how much fun he had making this album, and that pours out of music absent of the cynicism or self – deprecation so many artists wallow in. Cory, like myself, was all of seven when “Jack and Diane” hit the airwaves, In a summer when”Centerfold” and “I Love Rock n’ Roll” were also sound-tracking trips to the beach and backyard cookouts. It’s surprising how many artists try and hit that spot, and come off sounding either crass or sarcastic in the process, but there’s none of that in this song, just like there’s none of that on this album. I look forward to listening to this a lot this summer, and you should too.
As a side note, when spring moves into summer and you start driving with the windows down, what are your go – to summer songs? Listening to this album got me thinking about that, and I’m going to write about mine soon. Until then tell me yours in the comments section, I’m eager to hear what other songs soundtrack your summer nights.