By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
It wasn't Cory Branan's idea to wait six years between albums. He'd been writing a lot since the release of 2006's 12 Songs, but labels weren't calling, and he claims he knows why.
"Labels are kind of chicken-shit," he says as he drives through New Jersey. "If you can't describe what it is in three words, then the labels are hesitant to sign you."
The Mississippi native decided to take matters into his own hands and put together the recently issued Mutt. Not only were the songs good enough to attract Bloodshot Records, but according to Branan, the label was exactly what he was looking for.
"I searched around, found some funding and just did it all myself, started shopping it around," he says. "I had to find the right home for it. Luckily, Bloodshot came along. They were the perfect fit."
Mutt is a nearly perfect collection of songs, mining an interesting musical intersection between Paul Westerberg and Bruce Springsteen. Cuts such as "Survivor Blues," "Darken My Door" and "There There, Little Heartbreaker" show an adept storyteller with a firm grip of both melody and melancholy.
"I'm not writing short stories," Branan says. "There's not that much attention to detail, but I do my best."
And with most of Mutt, Branan's best is pretty special. With a voice that echoes Tom Waits and John Prine, he delivers his tales of woe with a weariness that somehow seems hopeful.
"These songs were written at different times," Branan explains. "Some of them are new and some of them are really old, but they are all about disappointment and disillusionment. They seemed to go together."
Despite the serious subject matter of his songs, Branan comes across as a fairly optimistic guy. He feels like he's paid his dues and even sees the bright side of waiting six years between albums.
"I definitely have a big batch of songs," he says. "I could do the next two records right now. And there will not be six years before these songs are released."