In the interest of full disclosure I consider Cory a pretty good friend. He’s someone who has slept on my couch, watched Max Headroom with me until dawn, played my older daughter’s birthday party and so on. I thought long and hard about letting someone else write this review so no one could claim that there was nepotism involved. I thought about it. Then I said “fuck that” I’ll write about what I want to write about.
As anyone who has ever spent more than 10 minutes in his company can confirm, Cory Branan is a hot mess! There is no doubt about that. He is all over the map all the time. No two shows are ever the same and his albums even more so, or less so depending on your perspective. Mutt is no exception to this and like everything else Cory does it’s a all over the map but hits all the right destinations. When you take in to account the songs we’ve been hearing at shows for years and the stuff that was sort held back until this release you end up with a crazy trip through Cory’s talent.
Take a look at “Survivor Blues”, both versions, and you’ll see what I mean. The closing version is closest to the live version we’ve heard already and then there’s the Thin Lizzy tribute version. I’ll be honest the Thin Lizzy version took me some time to get used to and even longer to like but it grew on me, slowly but surely, and now I couldn’t tell you which version I like more. I can say that my favorite line from that one changes depending on which version I head last. To me that really demonstrates Cory’s ability.
Now I have to admit I always feel a little guilty when I get a Cory album in my hands because I know that no matter how good it is that I’ll prefer the live version to what he’s laid down for the record. However this Mutt showed me that I shouldn’t assume shit about Mr. Branan! “Snowman” is a track that I don’t hear any differently than it is on the album. I don’t want an acoustic only version. I want to lose myself in that Tom-Waits-esque vibe and let the darkness of the lyrics wash over me and take to me places I usually don’t let my head take me to. Of course I am falling in to the same trap I opened this paragraph with and I am likely to be put in my place when I hear it played live but for now I am a stubborn bastard who doesn’t mind contradicting myself.
I hate saying that someone’s writing has matured and honestly I couldn’t say that with a straight face about this one even if I was inclined to do so. What I can say is that overall it’s a little darker than 12 Songs which is one of the reasons I like it so much. I like a little darkness with escape and this one delivers that very well. My all time favorite from Cory has always been “Whiskey Grove” (yeah, you try getting him to play it live) but I think it’s been usurped by “Lily”, quite possibly because of one single line: Lily I guess the best trick/is to see the magic/once you’ve seen then wires. If I don’t stop now I am likely to ramble on for way too long so I’ll wrap this up and let you get to the actual music…
Overall Mutt is a damn fine showcase for Cory’s writing and good vehicle for MPD style of musical arrangement. Even if you aren’t a fan of Cory’s studio stuff you need to check this one out. I am willing to lay odds that there is at least one track here that will grab your attention. It goes without saying that this is Essential Listening (and the album cover has boobies!). I kinda sorta have permission to give you a stream of Mutt for a couple of weeks but it’s sort of unofficial. So I am going with “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” since I didn’t get the final confirmation before the European tour kicked off.
Album stream available (with Cory’s permission) for a limited time: