Review: Cory Branan Live at The Mint, July 7 2012
By Natalie Rahhal, Staff Writer
Cory Branan is a difficult man to contextualize. He’s a hard-cussing, whiskey-drinking rocker; he’s a self-deprecating, reluctant star; he doesn’t give a damn, and maybe somewhere on his darker underside he’s a bit of a sensitive artist (just a very little bit). As he said himself, “It’s gonna be simultaneous, and very confusing….Anyone seen Inception?” With lines like that, Branan split sides and swayed bodies on a Saturday night at The Mint in Los Angeles. It may have been six years since his last album release, but Branan has clearly spent that time growing into his world-wise lyrics and the wheeling, reeling, and crackling of his dusty vocals. His set-list was centered around the tracks from his motley new album, MUTT, released on Bloodshot Records. These songs varied delightfully from the tender word play of “The Corner,” (which is the first track of MUTT and was his opening number at The Mint), to the snide playfulness of “Bad Man.”
Branan is engaging to watch. His fingers were incredible, scurrying with conviction up and down the guitar neck. Branan has the aptitude to play with the utmost technicality, but he also knows when to just let it rip. And that’s what he did on “Girl Named Go,” (from 12 Songs), which he played feverishly and half-screamed, energizing the audience into clapping and head-bobbing.
Nothing about Cory Branan can be described as consistent, but a sense of humor united not only his show, but those of the two opening acts: Touring partner Audra Mae and L.A.’s own Brett Detar. Each of the three had their own unique brand of humor, but all brought chuckles and whoops from the crowd. Detar’s stage presence was charmingly quiet, and his humor was in the same vein as Cory Branan’s own infamous self-deprecating style. But musically, Detar is a different animal. Where Branan is aggressive and folksy, Detar is bluesy, and sings with a big, swooning voice, that makes the heart ache for a Southern evening. Following Detar’s soulful performance, Audra Mae riled up the audience with a voice that had more power and rasp than anyone could ever guess would come out of the young girl with a frank, bubbly stage presence. She even joined Branan onstage to contribute to a heartwarming duet performance of “Darken My Door.”
For his part, Branan’s quick wit was testament to what a talented wordsmith he really is. It’s one thing for an artist to sit in his room, crafting clever line after clever line; quite another to improvise them on stage. As he played, Branan would occasionally step back from the mic, and mumble an inaudible lyric to the side of the stage, as if he lacked some confidence. But it quickly became clear that that’s just his style; music for Branan is a raucous good time more than it is a performance. He asked the audience on numerous occasions for requests, but had no qualms about saying “nope!” when it just wasn’t what he wanted to play, like you’d imagine the “Best Waitress in Memphis” he sings of might do. But Branan is more than a good-time guy. His casual demeanor (including a black ball cap, pulled down low over his eyes, replacing his long hair) and his penchant for throwing a “motherfucker” into a sentence tempered his provocative and insightful lyrics. As he said about the song “Sultana,”"Here’s a fun little number about the worst maritime disaster in our nation’s history…Sorry if you learn something…And then I’ll sing some more songs about pussy and shit.” And he did. There was a smile on every face in the crowd, whether Cory Branan was singing the story of the wrecked Sultana, or just recounting the simple pleasures and pains of ‘love,’ ‘pussy,’ and ‘shit.’
For more information on Cory Branan visit: http://corybranan.com/