Label's backing liberates adventurous singer-songwrter Cory Branan

Joshua Black Wilkins/special to
Cory Branan says getting signed to Bloodshot Records will up his output of albums. "I hope to have a new one every year and a half," Branan says.

Joshua Black Wilkins/special to Cory Branan says getting signed to Bloodshot Records will up his output of albums. "I hope to have a new one every year and a half," Branan says.

Born near Memphis (just south of the Mississippi state line), singer/songwriter Cory Branan currently resides in Nashville, but he is rarely home. Spending half his year on the road, touring solo or opening for major national acts, his diligence and eclectic sounds caught the attention of Bloodshot Records, which released Branan's first album in six years, "MUTT," in 2012. Making up for lost time, Branan is already at work on a follow-up for 2013.

The six years leading to the release of "MUTT" were not frittered away. Branan points out it was only three and a half years between the delayed release of his previous record and the foundational recordings for "MUTT." During this period, relentless writing and performance won the support of Bloodshot Records as well as a devoted following overseas.

"I'm really happy to have found a home on a label like Bloodshot," says Branan. "They have a long track record of getting music that may not fit neatly into a set genre. That's important to me, and especially for a record like "MUTT." ... Now that I'm on a label that wants to put out many records, I hope to have a new one every year and a half. The material on this next project is about half brand-new songs and half older material. I'm trying to balance my personal need to put out things that are fresh on my mind with what folks that come to the shows all these years have asked me to cut."

As Branan acknowledges, a label that celebrates a diversity of sounds was crucial, given "MUTT's" range. Judging from the sparse, acoustic opening track "The Corner," one would not expect the tracks that build up to and conclude the album, which incorporate dense, orchestral instrumentation, including strings and horns, all anchored by Branan's trademark vocal mix of gravely spoken-word whispers and ultra-melodic wailing. Another staple of Branan's sound is his storytelling style. He expects these long-honed trademarks to carry over into his upcoming releases, with forecasted tracks even containing songs within songs. Branan is currently recording demos for his sophomore release on Bloodshot Records, which he will officially begin recording at Nashville's Sound Kitchen in the spring and release later this year.

"The music I'm working on is as varied as ever, but we'll be approaching it as a cohesive sound," Branan explains. "There are definitely some songs here that lend themselves to a stripped-down approach. As far as subject matter, it varies from songs about family, home and the road to piano-playing ghosts and maritime disasters. There's also a song about writing songs that includes a song written over the course of the song, kinda like a country 'Inception.'"

For now, don't expect to hear the recorded versions of Branan's more elaborate tunes in a live setting. Branan's solo show features retooled versions of the more ornate, symphonically embellished tracks on his albums. While Branan occasionally features guest instrumentalists, he ultimately intends to present his work at full volume with a complete band, but for now offers more intimate representations of the denser tunes.

"I almost always play solo," Branan says. "I occasionally am graced with the company of the talented Amanda Shires on fiddle. When I get to the point where I can pay 'em what they deserve while also paying my light bill, I'll be putting together the baddest band you've ever seen."

Cory Branan makes a stop in Knoxville Thursday (Feb. 14), playing The Well with Glossary (Murfreesboro) and Telegraph Canyon (Fort Worth, Texas). Music starts at 9 p.m. and costs $7.

Heroes vs. Villains: Friday night Your Favorite Hero takes the stage with Villains and Bad Ideas at The Longbranch Saloon. The show is slated for 7 p.m.

Cone-heads: Thursday (Feb. 14), Preservation Pub hosts Pine Cone Jam, paying tribute to Ed Corts. Hosted by Adrienne Corts, the lineup features performances by Earth Quaker, Senryu, Just Say Maybe and The Jojax. The event kicks off at 9 p.m. and admission is $5.

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