Cory Branan

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Cory Branan
Cory Branan 2015.jpg
Branan performing in 2015
Background information
Born 1974 (age 41–42)
Southaven, Mississippi, U.S.
Origin Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres Alternative country, rock, folk
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 2000–present
Labels Bloodshot Records,[1] Madjack
Associated acts Lucero, Thrift Store Cowboys, Jason Isbell

Cory Branan (born 12/15/1974) is an American singer-songwriter, born in Southaven, Mississippi.

"With immeasurable talent, the freedom to follow his muse and a growing number of devout fans, Cory Branan is poised to attain that which eludes even the most successful musicians, a career marked by longevity."[2]

By his teens, Branan was playing hard rock and heavy metal, eventually fronting a Black Sabbath cover band. In his early 20′s he began to explore the music of John Prine, a move which urged him to pick up a guitar and start writing songs.[3] In 2000, the Memphis chapter of NARAS awarded Branan with the Phillips Award for “Newcomer of the Year.” He didn’t even have a recording contract yet, and the acclaim started rolling in. Two years later, Branan made his label debut with Memphis’ MADJACK Records with the release of The Hell You Say. In 2003 he appeared on both The Late Show with David Letterman and Last Call With Carson Daly.[4]

"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."[5]

The Hell You Say[edit]

Although initially self-released in 2001, Cory Branan re-released his debut full-length album, The Hell You Say, on Madjack Records on October 8, 2002. The rejuvenated album replaced three songs from the original issue with newbies "Skateland South" and "American Dream", in an effort to streamline the concept of the album.[6] Paste (magazine) draws the following analogy: "What Paul Westerberg did for sensitive Minnesotans, Cory Branan does for sensitive Southern boys on The Hell You Say. In lyrics wry, sweet, sad and utterly true (imagine if Westerberg’s Tim consisted solely of tracks like 'Kiss Me on the Bus' and 'Waitress in the Sky'), Branan’s characters populate skating rinks and dive bars, work dead-end jobs and chase after dead-end girls."[7]

It was these reactions that landed Branan a spot on The David Letterman Show in 2003.[8]

12 Songs[edit]

After a four-year lapse, Branan released his sophomore effort, 12 Songs on March 21, 2006, once more on Madjack Records. Although, as Blender magazine noted, "Branan banked the praise and laid low...12 Songs justifies the sabbatical."[9] The gap between records, however, is not attributed to any type of writer's block. Almost all of 12 Songs was written around the same time as the debut full-length, but saved for record number two.[10]

The album is rife with extreme juxtaposition, a theme by which Branan is admittedly fascinated. Blender says "'She's My Rock-n-Roll' and 'A Girl Named GO' are indie rock rebel yells, and elsewhere he gets as ballad-soused as [Ryan] Adams at his mopiest."[11]

The title of the album comes from Branan's concept for the record as more of a collection of 12 songs rather than a cohesive album.[12]


On May 22, 2012, Bloodshot Records released Mutt, his first album in six years and his debut on the record label. American Songwriter praised his "hushed, dry whiskey voice and his sharp edged, story song lyrics [which] make the appropriately titled Mutt a mongrel that rewards repeated spins with an understanding of Branan’s many influences and an appreciation for his largely impressionistic, thought-provoking words."[13] The title Mutt actually comes from his most frequent answer when asked to describe his own music. Originally intended to be titled Midtown - in reference to the diverse neighborhood in Memphis - Branan notes that the theme of each song on the record reminds him of the poem The Oven Bird by Robert Frost "which paints a picture of the fallen petals of post-spring flowers to convey fleeting beauty and ends with the question, 'What to make of a diminished thing'"[14]

Country Music Television News has this to say about the record, "On Mutt, the country, soul, gospel and classic rock he's absorbed through his travels filters down to just its barest and strongest elements. Then it's all tempered by the mellow charring of Branan's voice, which is so smoky that even at full power it retains a whispering quality."[15]

Regarding the lengthy time lapse between Branan's second and third album, Paste (magazine) says "But he’s worth the wait. Few songwriters sum up the contradictions of beery romance—of bad men drinking in barrooms, of heartbreakers darkening your door—with quite as much grit, wit and compassion as Branan, who can turn a phrase on a dime. 'Day-drinking and dreaming of you, I let the ashtray smoke my last cigarette,' he sings on opener 'The Corner,' which sums up his ethos perfectly."[16]

The No-Hit Wonder[edit]

Branan's speediest follow-up of his career, The No-Hit Wonder was released only two years after Mutt on August 19, 2014 via Bloodshot Records. “Since the last record was recorded, I’ve had two kids, I’ve gotten married, I’ve lost some family members,” says Branan, who grew up just outside Memphis in north Mississippi and lives now in Nashville. “In relation to all that, home sort of takes on a different light, so I think naturally I found myself writing a little bit more about home and the road in a different light.”[17]

Before the record hit one week old, it had already received high acclaim for its unparalleled songwriting, including this quote from PopMatters, "Beyond the lyrical craftsmanship, The No-Hit Wonder will make melodies stick in your head for days and have you listening to songs over and over just to catch missed lines on some of the record’s more fast-paced and lush verses that make him likably sound like a backwoods beat poet on speed."[18]

The album features a full cast of rock and alt-country talents including Craig Finn and Steve Selvidge of The Hold Steady, Tim Easton, Caitlin Rose, Austin Lucas, and Jason Isbell who has this to say about Branan's songwriting, "Cory Branan is one of my favorite songwriters working today. He writes beautiful melodies, heartbreaking phrases, and very smart lyrics. This is the kind of record that makes you hit pause every so often to process what the crazy bastard just said. Brilliant stuff."[19]

The No-Hit Wonder - song and album - is both a celebratory anthem of the world-weary, undefeated underdogs of the world, and a coming to terms with the cards life has dealt you.[20]


Studio albums[edit]

  • 2002 The Hell You Say (Madjack Records)
  • 2006 12 Songs (Madjack Records)
  • 2012 Mutt (Bloodshot Records)
  • 2014 The No-Hit Wonder (Bloodshot Records)

Split Releases[edit]

  • 2009 Jon Snodgrass / Cory Branan (Suburban Home)


  1. ^ "Bloodshot welcomes Cory Branan to the fold!". Bloodshot Records. 2012-01-17. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  2. ^ "Cory Branan". Chicago: Bloodshot Records. 
  3. ^ from an interview on episode 216 of the Americana Music Show, published October 20, 2014.
  4. ^ "Cory Branan". Madjack Records. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "Cory Branan". Bloodshot Records. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Morris, Chris (28 September 2002). "Declaration of Independents". Billboard. 
  7. ^ Aued, Blake (1 January 2003). "Cory Branan - The Hell You Say". Paste Media Group. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  8. ^ "Cory Branan - Miss Ferguson". YouTube. 7 February 2007. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "Georgia Theatre and Bowery South Presents Jason Isbell with Cory Branan at the Cox Capitol Theatre". ticketfly. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  10. ^ Rosenfeld, Steven (February 2007). "Words' Worth". Playback. 
  11. ^ Smith, RJ. "Cory Branan - 12 Songs". Blender. 
  12. ^ Norville, Jimmy (26 June 2012). "Cory Brannan - Mutt". Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  13. ^ Horowitz, Hal (4 June 2012). "Cory Brannan: Mutt". American Songwriter. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  14. ^ Paik, Ernest (2008). "Cory Branan". Mountain South. 
  15. ^ Parton, Chris (14 June 2012). "Cory Branan Unleashes New Album, Mutt". Country Music Television, Inc. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  16. ^ Deusner, Stephen M. (23 May 2012). "Cory Branan: Mutt". Paste Media Group. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  17. ^ Danton, Eric R. (12 August 2014). "Cory Branan Explores ‘Tangled Roots’ on ‘The No-Hit Wonder’". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  18. ^ Recker, Scott (20 August 2014). "Cory Branan: The No-Hit Wonder". PopMatters Media, Inc. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  19. ^ Recker, Scott (20 August 2014). "Cory Branan: The No-Hit Wonder". PopMatters Media, Inc. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  20. ^ "The No-Hit Wonder". Bloodshot Records. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 

External links[edit]