Ready for Road-Tripping
A mix of gritty vocals often reminiscent of a rocker, the traditional sounds of country and Southern/middle America and a little variety, Cory Branan’s fourth album, The No Hit Wonder, provides the perfect upbeat soundtrack for a cross-country road trip.
With the exception of two tracks, The No Hit Wonder features upbeat tempos and musical variety, and these are the tunes that excel. The ukulele and honkey tonk piano riffs in ”C’Mon Shadow” or accordion in “Daddy was a Skywriter” add musical color. In addition, acoustic guitar on slower songs and a variety of electric guitar tones differentiate between tracks before even a word is sung.
Some tunes demonstrate a mix of rock and country styles, while a twangy, bluesy sound or rockabilly two-step drumbeat on others prevent monotony between songs that are otherwise similar in tempo. The title track, “No Hit Wonder” blazes ahead with a full-bodied instrumental backing before stripping down in the back half of the tune and then layering vocal lines, guitar and drums back into the mix one at a time for a satisfying, steering-wheel slapping finish to the tune.
Known for his lyrical storytelling, The No Hit Wonder’s lyrics aren’t life altering or terribly thought-provoking, but they resonate with human experience and the language is vivid: “He say you wanna know what true love feels like/It’s the next best thing to death/It feels like after an elbowed windpipe/Just before the next breath.”
Branan’s vocal lines, especially in the song verses, often bend and dip around the melody line instead of singing straight ahead. In most cases, the intervallic nature of these lines adds interest coupled with Branan’s grungy vocal quality. But, during the ballad “All I Got and Gone,” some of these big drops into the low register momentarily halt the forward movement of the phrase unnecessarily.
Though he doesn’t take the listener particularly deep, Cory Branan’s The No Hit Wonder is an easily accessible and pleasant listening experience, especially when the upbeat tracks come on shuffle. As the inclusion of the track “The Highway Home” suggests, this album is suited towards those nostalgic car journeys with the windows down and the music turned up.