On his third album of spell-binding, story-fuelled country rock, Mississippi troubadour Cory Branan continues to develop his own voice, while respectfully nodding in the direction of longer-in-the-tooth Americana greats.
At times he’s a laconic narrator in the mould of John Prine, a mythical sage cut from the same cloth as Robbie Robertson, or a prairie poet with the no-nonsense articulacy of Hank Williams.
That’s not to dismiss the 12 songs on Mutt as derivative. Because although Badman evokes the street-corner serenades of early-70s Springsteen, the lilting waltz of Lil Heartbreaker sobs on the shoulder of Tom Waits, and the mannered boulevardier cabaret of Snowman shares a cigarette with Leonard Cohen, they’re clearly the work of the same wry observer, chronicling the bumps and bruises of the world around him.
Branan is as much inspired by the descriptive landscapes and people portraits of southern authors like Larry McMurtry or Carson McCullers, couching his studies of everyday folk with everyday struggles in striking melodies. The Freefall dazzles with its detail (‘the moon was low enough to put your drink on’), while Lily emerges as an epic poem of love and loss, a sad surrender to the inevitability of heartache.