Cory Branan has been a household name in my family for the past several years and, with his newest album release MUTT out May 22nd on Bloodshot Records, I have never been as proud to call myself a fan. I have been to all his Chicago shows and that has given me the opportunity to become very familiar with his live performances. Before getting my hands on MUTT, I always felt there was something lacking between his recordings and live shows. This album bridges the gap and adds some new and exciting tracks that I look forward to seeing performed live.
Album opener “The Corner” was a great way to reassure listeners of Branan’s, that this album will highlight his ability to write these mini stories that are tied nicely together with a catchy chorus, that are also as pretty as a southern long haired bearded man can make them.
The next track, a very lively version of “Survivor's Blues,” was honestly my“ Wait What?” moment of the album, but in the best way possible. He nailed it with this one. Having heard him sing it in a slightly different, a more tame, subdued, way (which later makes an appearance as the closing track) didn’t prepare me for the all out blood and guts southern rock throwdown that is this version. With the backstory of a couple who has to overcome previous life choices to be together and the hook line of “They say it makes you stronger, first you gotta survive, what doesn’t kill makes you wish you die” are a winning combination.
Following up this lively song is “Badman,” which has a Mellencamp/Springsteen feel. It has some awesome piano parts that help create this reminiscent familiarity that is only aided by lyrics that tell the story of a young “bad-boy” and girl’s relationship.
Moving through the album I reached “Lil Heartbreaker,” lacking the talented spastic guitar playing that Cory has made his own, its sweet lullaby melody is a perfect changeup that couldn’t remotely prepare listeners for “Snowman”, a song kind of out left field. Somehow, it works within this album. The vocals are a great unifying characteristic that help as the connect it to previous tracks.
“Karen’s Song” is like an old familiar friend to anyone who has heard Branan’s work, just more polished, maybe even a bit twangyer. “Free Fall” follows nicely focusing, on his vocals that are kept simple. “Jericho” has a nice surprise about 45 seconds in and only adds to the surprises and twists this album has. Scooting my way down to the closing track of “Survivor’s Blues (After Hours)” completes this album perfectly.
Overall, this album is everything and then some and has something for everyone. At times it feels like going to a church potluck meal, some jello salad, fried chicken, other random non-distinguishable meat, maybe a pickle and brownie to even out the color on the plate. The individual foods each stand on their own but not until they are all muddled together on one plate do you get that true taste that is so unique to the proper mixing of everything. Take a listen to this album and make sure to catch Cory on the road. He’s a master of the craft of guitar playing, while looking really cool with slightly pained facial expression while making you want to go to the south and be his best friend.