ADIOS is Cory Branan’s death record. Not the cheeriest of openings, but like all of Branan’s mercurial work, it’s probably not what you think. As funny and defiant as it is touching and sad, this self-dubbed “loser’s survival kit” doesn’t spare its subjects or the listener.
Not even Branan’s deceased father is let off the hook. In the tender homage “The Vow” he drolly cites his father’s favorite banality “that’s what you get for thinking” as “probably not the best lesson for kids.” For most songwriters that would be the punchline but Branan pushes through words and, in his father’s actions, finds a kind of “genius in the effortless way he just ‘did’.”
Not all the death on ADIOS is literal mortality. “Imogene” is sung from the wreckage of a love that once “poked fun at the pain, stoked the sun in the rain” but ends with the urgent call to “act on the embers, ash won’t remember the way back to fire.”
The trademark lyrical agility is mirrored sonically. Never a genre loyalist, ADIOS finds Branan (much like his musically restless heroes Elvis Costello and Tom Waits) coloring outside the lines in sometimes startling shades of fuzz and twang. While unafraid to play it arrow-straight when called for (“The Vow,” “Equinox,” “Don’t Go”), ADIOS veers wildly from the Buddy Holly-esque rave up “I Only Know” (sung with punk notables Laura Jane Grace and Dave Hause), through the swampy “Walls, MS” to the Costello-like new wave of “Visiting Hours.”
The blistering punk of “Another Nightmare in America” bops along daring listeners to “Look away, look away, move along, nothing to see here” (the song is written from the point of view of a racist killer cop). And as the mourning singer on “Cold Blue Moonlight” shifts from paralysis to panic, the song’s jazzy drone shifts to an almost Sabbath fury. The tonal shifts are always deliberate and not just simple genre hopping; while the turns can be jarring you can trust Branan to take you somewhere unexpected.
The 14-song album was self-produced and recorded in the spring of 2016 at Tweed Studios in Oxford, MS with a tight three piece: Branan on lead vocals and guitar (both electric and acoustic); Robbie Crowell (formerly of Deer Tick) on drums and percussion, keys, and horns; and James “Haggs” Haggerty on bass. Additionally, Amanda Shires contributes on fiddle and vocals, and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! and Dave Hause provide guest vocals.
Cory Branan has four previous full-length releases: The Hell You Say (2002, Madjack Records), 12 Songs (2006, Madjack), Mutt (2012, Bloodshot Records), and The No-Hit Wonder (2014, Bloodshot). His music has received critical praise from the likes of Rolling Stone and Rolling Stone Country, NPR All Things Considered, Noisey, Wall Street Journal, Paste Magazine, Oxford American, Consequence of Sound, Southern Living, and many others.
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. Across three albums, 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.
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.
Daphne Lee Martin
A life shaped by art, travel, and exploration, by mile markers, rear view mirrors, and wanderlust.
Singer songwriter Daphne Lee Martin has juggled multiple roles through her career, balancing a road warrior’s commitment to the road with a sound that blends the traditions of southern roots music with the sharp sensibilities of New England folk, indie rock, sophisticated soul, and all points in between.
On Scared Fearless, her fifth album of original material, she shines a light on her years logged as a touring musician. A lifelong musician whose previous albums have doubled down on her fictional storytelling chops, Martin turns the camera lens upon herself with Scared Fearless. This is the soundtrack to a life spent in the trenches, pulled into battle by one’s dedication to art, travel, and exploration. It’s an album shaped by mile markers, rear view mirrors, and wanderlust. And, like the highway that runs beneath Martin’s wheels, it points her toward a new horizon.