There is truth, irony and realism in the title of Cory Branan’s fourth album. However hits may always be measured in pure sales terms while hitting the creative mark should count for a lot. In that light, Branan is a hit maker. He is an erudite and skilful writer with an individual voice who has put together a strong package that includes producer Paul Ebersold and guest appearances from the likes of Jason Isbell on the opening You Make Me and on The Highway Home. Like Isbell, Branan has found his groove and has made a winning album. The title tracks find him being joined on the catchy chorus by two members of The Hold Steady on a song that considers the lot of a jobbing musician. Caitlin Rose, Austin Lucas and Tim Easton also guest, all worthy artists in their own right who wouldn’t be here if they didn’t respect Branan’s music.
As well as the names above Branan has gathered together a crew of seasoned players to bring these song to life. The music is varied enough to give a pleasing spectrum of roots Americana that hits the big beat on the title track and ends with a simple voice and guitar Meantime Blues which easily bears comparison with the latter day Steve Earle or John Prine. This reflective closing song works in its stripped down setting just as well as the full band performance of the other tracks. Throughout, the songs tend to remind you of some of the other good artists playing roots music, but that never takes away from the strength and satisfaction of these songs, all written by Branan, which show a maturing and perceptive writer.
There’s a high quotient of twang too. Tune in to Sour Mash, All the Rivers in Colorado, Daddy Was a Skywriter and Highway Home. Veteran steelie Robbie “Man of Steel” Turner adds his talents to several of these tunes, boosting their country feel and flavour. All of these ingredients make this an album worth of attention, and sales. Branan has hit his stride and the real wonder is; why he has been flying under the radar in the past? This collection should find him at the forefront of contemporary troubadours making music that actually matters.