CORY BRANAN

\ADIOS is Cory Branan’s death record. Not the cheeriest of openings, but like all of Branan’s mercurial work, it’s probably not what you think. As funny and defiant as it is touching and sad, this self-dubbed “loser’s survival kit” doesn’t spare its subjects or the listener.

Not even Branan’s deceased father is let off the hook. In the tender homage “The Vow” he drolly cites his father’s favorite banality “that’s what you get for thinking” as “probably not the best lesson for kids.” For most songwriters that would be the punchline but Branan pushes through words and, in his father’s actions, finds a kind of “genius in the effortless way he just ‘did’.”

Not all the death on ADIOS is literal mortality. “Imogene” is sung from the wreckage of a love that once “poked fun at the pain, stoked the sun in the rain” but ends with the urgent call to “act on the embers, ash won’t remember the way back to fire.”

The trademark lyrical agility is mirrored sonically. Never a genre loyalist, ADIOS finds Branan (much like his musically restless heroes Elvis Costello and Tom Waits) coloring outside the lines in sometimes startling shades of fuzz and twang. While unafraid to play it arrow-straight when called for (“The Vow,” “Equinox,” “Don’t Go”), ADIOS veers wildly from the Buddy Holly-esque rave up “I Only Know” (sung with punk notables Laura Jane Grace and Dave Hause), through the swampy “Walls, MS” to the Costello-like new wave of “Visiting Hours.”

The blistering punk of “Another Nightmare in America” bops along daring listeners to “Look away, look away, move along, nothing to see here” (the song is written from the point of view of a racist killer cop). And as the mourning singer on “Cold Blue Moonlight” shifts from paralysis to panic, the song’s jazzy drone shifts to an almost Sabbath fury. The tonal shifts are always deliberate and not just simple genre hopping; while the turns can be jarring you can trust Branan to take you somewhere unexpected.

The 14-song album was self-produced and recorded in the spring of 2016 at Tweed Studios in Oxford, MS with a tight three piece: Branan on lead vocals and guitar (both electric and acoustic); Robbie Crowell (formerly of Deer Tick) on drums and percussion, keys, and horns; and James “Haggs” Haggerty on bass. Additionally, Amanda Shires contributes on fiddle and vocals, and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! and Dave Hause provide guest vocals.

Cory Branan has four previous full-length releases: The Hell You Say (2002, Madjack Records), 12 Songs (2006, Madjack), Mutt (2012, Bloodshot Records), and The No-Hit Wonder (2014, Bloodshot). His music has received critical praise from the likes of Rolling Stone and Rolling Stone Country, NPR All Things Considered, Noisey, Wall Street Journal, Paste Magazine, Oxford American, Consequence of Sound, Southern Living, and many others.

Growing up, show business was in Audra Mae's blood. Her great grandmother, Virginia, was a member of the Gumm Sisters, whose youngest member, Francis Ethel Gumm, grew up to be Judy Garland. Her paternal grandmother turned her on to country and folk artists like Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Woody Guthrie, while her maternal grandfather introduced her to jazz.
 
Since arriving in California seven years ago, on Elvis Presley's birthday no less, with the proverbial $20 in her pocket, Audra Mae has done alright for herself. She landed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell, a TV placement singing Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" on the hit F/X series, Sons of Anarchy, and in 2009, wrote the lyrics to "Why I Was Born to Die," the only original track on Susan Boyle's chart-topping, 9 million-selling I Dreamed a Dream album.

And now Audra Mae is about to see her own dream come true. 
 
Since her acclaimed SideOneDummy Records debut, The Happiest Lamb, in May 2010, Oklahoma-born singer/songwriter Audra Mae has undergone quite a transformation. Her band, The Almighty Sound, including stand-up bassist Joe Ginsberg, guitarist Jarrad Kritzstein, pianist Frank Pedano and drummer Kiel Feher, who have played live with her in a series of residencies around the L.A. area, came together in early 2011 as a close group of friends with no official name. Not even a year later, they've completed a new record with a new name, a new look and an Almighty Sound.
 
"It's sort of like the chicken and the egg," explains Audra about the development of Audra Mae & The Almighty Sound, also the title of the full-length record to be released Valentine's Day, 2012.  "It's hard to tell which came first; the band or the new record. These musicians are my best friends. They're so talented and they have my back, which is what you want in a band...that they care about you and your music."
 
The album's genesis took place in the acoustic live shows Audra Mae did with bassist Joe Ginsberg, who tour managed and played upright bass for Audra before moving to L.A. from Denver and helping her form the new band. 

"I started this album before the label even wanted another record," says Audra. "I just wanted to capture what was happening naturally, rather than interpret someone else's vision of what I am."

Guitarist/ filmmaker/editor Jarrad Kritzstein, dubbed "The Octopus" ("Because he does everything well," claims Audra), worked with her and the band in his home studio, laying down the blueprints and homespun percussive elements for a little over a month prior to the official start of recording.  

Deana Carter, a country star in her own right, whose debut album, Did I Shave My Legs for This? sold 5 million in the U.S., and has had three #1 country singles in "Strawberry Wine," "We Danced Anyway" and "How Do I Get There," came aboard to co-produce after seeing Audra Mae and the band perform a gig in Santa Monica. "Deana was our fearless captain," says Audra. 
 
While The Happiest Lamb showcased Audra Mae's darker, more dramatic and melancholy side, Audra Mae & The Almighty Sound is a celebration of her own blossoming as a performer, the perfect storm of all her influences, spiked with the energy of a group who honed their chops in live situation. 

The album highlights include the belting blues of "The Real Thing," written with Bravo's Platinum Hit contestant Jackie Tohn; "My Friend the Devil," an urgent country ballad penned with Dan Wilson; the rockabilly/hip-hop nursery rhyme chant of "Little Red Wagon," with its reference to Audra Mae's own gold Dodge Dart classic; and the rumbling "Smokin' the Boys," a rollicking, cheeky ode to female self-empowerment co-written with Carter. The delta plaint of "Ne'er Do Wells" is described by Audra as a "union song," co-written with guitarist Kritzstein, a tribute to the builders of our railroads and homes, dedicated to her father. The final "Two Melodies," a collaboration with R&B singer/songwriter Allen Stone, is a prayerful benediction, tying up the album with a bow of humility, an anti-materialistic ode to being grateful for whatever you have.

Recorded live, including vocals, in one week at Hollywood Sound, Audra Mae & The Almighty Sound genuinely captures the band's electric performances.
 
A five-song EP, including covers of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Breakdown" and The Black Keys' "Ten Cent Pistol," due out Nov 22, 2011, will precede the release of the full-length album in 2012.
 
"This album is the closest I've come to putting my soul to music the way I wanted to," she says. "I'm really happy with it. I feel like I'm on the right track.
 
"Life gives you what it wants you to have. I try to stay in that constant state of being grateful for where I am, and have faith that it's just a matter of time to get these messages out to more and more people every day. I'm just trying to trust that this is the life I'm supposed to have, this is where I'm supposed to be."
 
Audra Mae & The Almighty Sound are here…and not a moment too soon.

MR. MUDD & MR. GOLD

Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold were born in Phoenix, Arizona during the Great Dust Storm of 2011. From the dust and wreckage emerged a bastard child of country, blues, Appalachia, bluegrass, and rockabilly that wanted nothing more than to kick your ass. You like getting your ass kicked, don't you? Then come be friends with Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold.

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