‘MUTT’ music: Cory Branan returns to ToledoWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Most artists don’t wait six years to release a new album as Cory Branan did with “MUTT,” his third full-length record and first since 2006’s “12 Songs.” But then again, the Memphis-bred singer-songwriter isn’t most artists.
“I’m not that marketable,” Branan said with a laugh. “Let’s just put it like that.”
On June 24, Branan will bring his unique sound to Toledo when he performs at Mickey Finn’s.
Given the nature of his music, “MUTT” is a fitting title for Branan’s latest effort. The album was released on May 22 via Bloodshot Records after an arduous process of Branan trying to find a label that believed in his work.
“No one’s been making any money, hardly, so labels are very touchy with who they sign,” Branan said. “And I’m not some, you know, 20-year-old kid, and I don’t play one kind of music. You can’t really say what it is in three words, I don’t think.”
With a father who was a drummer and Memphis in close proximity to his birthplace of Southaven, Miss., music was a natural progression for Branan. After dabbling in heavier music early on, Branan credited John Prine for opening his eyes to a different direction.
But while his music can’t necessarily be pigeonholed into a single genre, Branan is a storyteller at his core.
“I like songs that don’t really — they can open up inside the listener, yes — but I like songs that kind of pull you in,” Branan said. “I like songs that the door’s open end, kind of.”
That storytelling talent helped Branan earn praise before he had a record contract. In 2000, he received the Phillips Award for “Newcomer of the Year” by the Memphis chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
As his career progressed with debut album “The Hell You Say” in 2002 and the aforementioned “12 Songs,” Branan also garnered praise from Rolling Stone, GQ, Billboard and Blender, among others.
“I had never had any plans,” Branan said on the development of his music career and the early praise he received. “I’ve never really made plans, and so it just was happening, you know? I’m married to it now.”
After two albums with Memphis-based indie label MADJACK Records, “MUTT” is Branan’s first work with Bloodshot Records, a label that has followed his career for quite some time.
“Touring as an artist, whatever, and doing like I do now, you don’t really know what a weekend is,” Branan said. “But I feel like all the work I’ve been doing over the years, it feels like I’ve been digging ditches, almost, and Bloodshot is the weekend.”
Recorded at Closer Studios in San Francisco with the late Tim Mooney (drummer/engineer for American Music Club), Branan described “MUTT” as a “circle-type record” where the songs relate to each other. Though he never stopped working in between the release of “12 Songs” and “MUTT,” Branan added that the time gap allowed him to structure the new material accordingly.
“I had more to choose from, and I could write songs to reinforce the connections between the others,” Branan said of “MUTT.” “So I had time to write it out and arrange it the way I wanted.”
Featuring contributions from the likes of Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), Jon Snodgrass (Drag the River) and Ralph Carney (horn player for Tom Waits), “MUTT” received a “commendable” rating from Paste, while Lee Stabert of Nashville Scene described it as “every bit as beguiling, sweet and strange as its predecessors.”
“People have been very kind,” Branan said of “MUTT,” which reached No. 45 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart. “I’m not sure if everyone gets it. Even some of the nice reviews are a little off base, but people have been kind.”
Praise or no praise, it doesn’t matter much to Branan as long as he can make the music he wants to make. With a label that’s allowing him to do that in Bloodshot Records, he’s excited to bring songs from “MUTT” to people live, including those in Toledo.
“I don’t expect ever to have hundreds of people at shows,” Branan said. “It’s more of the kind of intensity that people bring, and I’ve had some intense shows in Toledo. People are involved. They’re not just there because it’s some sort of social event.
“There are people who are thirsty for music there, so it’ll be great to come back.”
- On June 24, Cory Branan, Audra Mae and Michael Corwin & Tim Richissen will perform at Mickey Finn’s, located at 602 Lagrange St. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster. The show starts at 9 p.m. For more information, visit mickeyfinnspub.com or call (419) 246-3466.