With one foot planted in the blue-collar alt-country of Steve Earle and the other in the ragged folk-punk of Chuck Ragan's Revival Tour, he stretches his songs to their near-breaking points.— Rolling Stone
Left-leaning roots music that owes more to the rhythmic whiplash of Memphis' Sun Records than the poppy, polished twang of Nashville's Music Row.— Rolling Stone
He’s a powerful songwriter, a world-class guitar player, a singer with enough melody and grit to please the ear and stick to bones. He crafts complex songs, toying with structures and characters in ways most songwriters never consider, let alone have the guts to commit to record.— Noisey / VICE
Like all good country music, Cory Branan is hard, if not impossible, to define.— PopMatters
Cory Branan’s new album is wryly titled The No-Hit Wonder, but despite the self-inflicted jab, the Memphis-bred roots-rocker is at the crest of the new wave of Americana.— CMT Edge
The No-Hit Wonder is brimming with vivid and infectious songwriting. It’s a breath of fresh country air in an otherwise stale market.— Consequence of Sound
I get heartily sick of people saying they don’t write country songs the way they used to – open your eyes and ears; they do and Cory Branan is one of the best, even if he doesn’t wear a Stetson.— No Depression
A country boy with a punk-rock heart, Cory Branan fires twin barrels of barroom boogie woogie and honky-tonk twang.— Rolling Stone
"The first time I heard ["The No-Hit Wonder"] I thought, 'Wow, that’s the best song Jay Farrar has written in years.' Now I think, 'Jay Farrar needs to write more Cory Branan songs.'"— Grantland
Named one of Rolling Stone Country's 10 Artists You Need to Know in 2014
Throughout his decade-and-a-half-long career, Cory Branan has been too punk for country, too country for punk, too Memphis for Nashville, and probably a little too Cory Branan for anyone’s damn good. He has proven himself as a top-notch songwriter (Chuck Ragan recently called him “the greatest songwriter of our generation”), fierce lyricist (in Lucero’s “Tears Don’t Matter Much” they sing that Cory has, “a way with words that’ll bring you to your knees”), and a hyperdynamic performer with the ability to fingerpick finer than ‘60s Greenwich Village folkies and brutally strum like a proto punk shredder. Across three albums, he’s made collective struggles poetic and breakthroughs into sympathetic acts of populist heroism.
A praise-filled pitch is nearly irrelevant, though, because the songs do all the convincing on his new, fourth album The No-Hit Wonder. There’s a timeless craftsmanship in these deceptively simple songs about love and home, losses and dreams. Branan’s had his fair share of each since completing his critically acclaimed Bloodshot debut MUTT in 2012, losing several beloved family members, getting married, and having two kids. He spent all this time touring heavily with artists across the spectrum, including The Gaslight Anthem and Jason Isbell (who appears here on “You Make Me” and “The Highway Home”). The pull of settling down and push of life’s unavoidable unsettlings inform much of the new record, which navigates the lows while celebrating the highs with fresh urgency.
This heightened appreciation of home finds Branan returning to his tangled roots. Being raised on the border between musical mecca Memphis, TN and the kudzu-crowned hill country of North Mississippi will do strange things to a boy. On TNHW Branan sonically ignores territorial lines, mixing in the traditional Sun Records-era doghouse bass and whiplash guitar of “Sour Mash,” alongside lonesome vintage steel of “The Highway Home.” Then there’s the Hüsker Dü driving bass, Replacements skronk, and malted Morrissey croon of “Missing You Fierce,” and The Faces-meet-Zevon excitability of the opener “You Make Me.”
The No-Hit Wonder - song and album - is both a celebratory anthem of the world-weary, undefeated underdogs of the world, and a coming to terms with the cards life has dealt you. While the title track may sound autobiographical, it was written for fellow troubadours “living blood to string/hand to mouth.” And when the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn and Steve Selvidge join in singing “it is what it is/blood to string,” it becomes everybody’s fight.
Lyrically, there’s plenty of Branan’s trademark rakish humor (in “The Only You”: “Got me another girl/she looks like you… at 23/but while she sleeps I trace the places where your tattoos used to be”) and unforced Southern imagery (in “You Make Me”: “Now I’m happy as a bluebird in a bottle tree”). Not that it’s all sunshine and honeysuckle; in “All I Got and Gone,” the singer ransacks his decaying house in search of a missing note, while lamenting “The heart has four darkened drawers and secrets from itself.”
For his fourth album Branan called on a who’s who cast of heroes and no-hit-wonder peers to flash up the proceedings. Finn and Selvidge of the Hold Steady, Isbell, Caitlin Rose and Austin Lucas (“All the Rivers in Colorado”), and Tim Easton (“Sour Mash”) all lend their voices to the cause, while some of Nashville’s finest players - Audley Freed (The Black Crowes), John Radford (Justin Townes Earle, Luella and The Sun), Sadler Vaden (The 400 Unit, Drivin and Cryin), and Robbie “The Man of Steel” Turner (Waylon Jennings, Charlie Rich) - hammer the damn thing home.
Throughout his career, Cory Branan has been too punk for country, too country for punk, too Memphis for Nashville, and probably a little too Cory Branan for anyone’s damn good. He has proven himself as a top-notch songwriter (Chuck Ragan recently called him “the greatest songwriter of our generation”), fierce lyricist (in Lucero’s “Tears Don’t Matter Much” they sing that Cory has, “a way with words that’ll bring you to your knees”), and a hyperdynamic performer with the ability to fingerpick finer than ‘60s Greenwich Village folkies and brutally strum like a proto punk shredder. Throughout his career, he’s made collective struggles poetic and breakthroughs into sympathetic acts of populist heroism.
Cory Branan is a natural-born storyteller, his seemingly conversational, painstakingly crafted anecdotes benefitting from a hard-eyed stare at hydra-headed life experiences. Not unlike his musical and literary pedestal sitters, from John Prine and Leonard Cohen to Raymond Carver and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cory's gift for detail and phrase-turning is a thing of wonder. There's a novelistic flair to his writing, an approach full of layers and depth. Songs seemingly reveal something new with every listen.
Cory has a well-documented history with groups like former label mates Lucero, musicians of his ilk who trend toward the rawer end of roots music (The Loved Ones' Dave Hause, Chuck Ragan, The Hold Steady, The Gaslight Anthem, Two Cow Garage, Drag the River's Jon Snodgrass), and rock stars like Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional), who has covered Cory's gorgeous "Tall Green Grass" and been a reoccurring tour mate.
Never one to shy away from an itinerary of non-stop cross-country shows, Cory possesses a unique performance style that enables him to gravelly sing a coy double entendre in one ear of the audience, while yelling the most beautiful love song into the other.
Official Website: Cory Branan Online