Inside the Columbia Museum of Art – 7:00
Throughout his decade-and-a-half-long career, Cory Branan has been too punk for country, too country for punk, too Memphis for Nashville, and probably a little too Cory Branan for anyone’s damn good. He has proven himself as a top-notch songwriter (Chuck Ragan recently called him “the greatest songwriter of our generation”), fierce lyricist (in Lucero’s “Tears Don’t Matter Much” they sing that Cory has, “a way with words that’ll bring you to your knees”), and a hyperdynamic performer with the ability to fingerpick finer than ‘60s Greenwich Village folkies and brutally strum like a proto punk shredder. Across three albums, he’s made collective struggles poetic and breakthroughs into sympathetic acts of populist heroism.
Being raised on the border between musical mecca Memphis, TN and the kudzu-crowned hill country of North Mississippi will do strange things to a boy. On TNHW Branan sonically ignores territorial lines, mixing in the traditional Sun Records-era doghouse bass and whiplash guitar of “Sour Mash,” alongside lonesome vintage steel of “The Highway Home.” Then there’s the Hüsker Dü driving bass, Replacements skronk, and malted Morrissey croon of “Missing You Fierce,” and The Faces-meet-Zevon excitability of the opener “You Make Me.”
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. While the title track may sound autobiographical, it was written for fellow troubadours “living blood to string/hand to mouth.” And when the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn and Steve Selvidge join in singing “it is what it is/blood to string,” it becomes everybody’s fight.