It's been six years since Mississippi/Memphis-bred songwriter Cory Branan's last officially released full-length album, 12 Songs, but we're finally getting a follow-up. Last week, venerable Chicago indie Bloodshot Records announced it had signed Branan and would be releasing his third album, Mutt, sometime this spring.
“We've had our eye on Cory for just about as long as he's been honing his air-tight, clever version of the perfect story-song,” Bloodshot publicist Josh Zanger wrote in a release announcing the signing. “So after falling in love with a demo of his new material, we jumped at the chance to add him to the fold.”
“We had been negotiating for about three months,” Branan says, by phone from Nashville yesterday afternoon, saying that he finally signed the deal in December while in Chicago for a gig.
Mutt was recorded in San Francisco a couple of years ago and has been in limbo while Branan talked to various labels, finally finding a deal he liked with Bloodshot.
Both 12 Songs and Branan's debut, The Hell You Say — arguably one of the very best Memphis albums of the past decade — were released via the local indie MADJACK, but, for a variety of reasons, Branan wasn't able to fully follow through on the initial attention that debut generated. Branan has been playing and recording regularly in the years since 12 Songs, spending time in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Austin, Texas, and more recently decamping to Nashville. But it's been too long a wait for him to have a record out on a label with a national profile, and Bloodshot will provide that. The label was at the forefront of the so-called alt-country scene in the ’90s, serving as a launching pad for Dallas' old 97's, among other acts. Currently, it's home to great ’80s alt-rock survivors (Mekons' Jon Langford, X's Exene Cervenka) and some of the best younger roots/folk-oriented artists (Justin Townes Earle, Scott Biram).
“Bloodshot's a real blue-collar label. They have a tried and true staff that really works their records,” Branan says.
Branan will be back in Austin in March for the annual South by Southwest Music Festival, where Bloodshot will essentially debut him as part of the family at their label showcase. Will Bloodshot putting out a high-profile release from Townes Earle in March, Branan says he expects Mutt to get a May release.
While Branan continues touring and gets back on track as a recording artist, he's also exploring a new career track, trying to break into the crowded but potentially lucrative songwriting/publishing business in Nashville, one of the reasons for his move east.
Here's Branan performing “The Corner,” a key track on Mutt, at Ardent Studios: