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 anyones 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 Luceros Tears Dont Matter Much they sing that Cory has, a way with words thatll 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, hes made collective struggles poetic and breakthroughs into sympathetic acts of populist heroism.
A praise-filled pitch is nearly irrelevant, though, because the songs do all the convincing on his new, fourth album The No-Hit Wonder. Theres a timeless craftsmanship in these deceptively simple songs about love and home, losses and dreams. Branans had his fair share of each since completing his critically acclaimed Bloodshot debut MUTT in 2012, losing several beloved family members, getting married, and having two kids. He spent all this time touring heavily with artists across the spectrum, including The Gaslight Anthem and Jason Isbell (who appears here on You Make Me and The Highway Home). The pull of settling down and push of lifes unavoidable unsettlings inform much of the new record, which navigates the lows while celebrating the highs with fresh urgency.
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 Steadys Craig Finn and Steve Selvidge join in singing it is what it is/blood to string, it becomes everybodys fight.