Album Review: Cory Branan – The No-Hit Wonder

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The title of Cory Branan‘s newest full-length sounds a bit unsettling. Does Branan imply that this album – “The No-Hit Wonder” –  has no hit potential at all? Or does he mean he can make it far without ever having a main-stream hit? Especially with Chuck Ragan saying Branan is “the greatest songwriter of our generation”. Here is our verdict.

Branan has always traveled between country and punkish folk with a great deal of storytelling. “The No-Hit Wonder” is no different, although the differences to his previous album “Mutt” are easily put out there. New songs with a new touch, different use of instruments and a whole bunch of guest musicians that makes you wonder why Branan has not reached higher popularity in the States or anywhere else.

Okay, the first song – “You Make Me” – featuring Jason Isbell maybe is a tad too poppy in contrast to previous work, but it does show that the singer from Memphis, Tennessee can amount to anything he sets his mind to. Besides, another large aspect of Branan’s musicianship are his well-thought lyrics.  In “The Only You” he sings “I got me another girl, she looks like you at twenty three. While she sleeps I trace the places where your tattoos used to be.” Though at first glance it seems ‘pretty damn simple’, it shows that Branan chooses his words really careful.

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Click for bigger picture

What also really stands out is the diversity of music on “The No-Hit Wonder”. From a rockabilly hoedown “Sour Mash“, along a Neil Diamond-ish, humour-filled country/blues “C’mon Shadow” to a more zydeco influenced “Daddy Was A Skywriter“. And meanwhile we passed (one of the) best songs of the album, which may well result in his first hit, leaving Branan with an album title not applicable to himself anymore. “All The Rivers In Colorado“, an instant classic country song featuring Caitlin Rose and Austin Lucas on vocals – and including a beautifully played pedal steel guitar – makes you want to sway around a dance floor immediately.

Closing the album, “The Meantime Blues” reminds us more of the album’s predecessor, as it is the only song with just Branan’s voice and guitar. And while Branan and his backing band have done an amazing job on “The No-Hit Wonder”, there is no better song Branan could have put last: his solo stuff is still a class apart.

★★★★★/5

“The No-Hit Wonder” is out August 19 through Bloodshot Records.

Cory Branan on: Facebook Twitter Spotify

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