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Cory Branan with special guest Trapper Schoepp (Singer Songwriter) $15
Saturday, November 23 @ 9:00 pm - 11:00 pm
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.
Trapper Schoepp was in a dark place.
The Milwaukee-based tunesmith had been on a roll, earning acclaim as one of America’s most gifted new singer-songwriters, singled out for his remarkably detailed tales of characters on the fringes of society. His Brendan Benson-produced second album, 2016’s RANGERS & VALENTINES, was hailed among that year’s finest, declared a “mini masterpiece” by Relix after being named Billboard’s “Best of the Week.” But by the time 2016 came to its end, Schoepp had split with his longtime partner, been all but forced out of his longtime home and band clubhouse by a new landlord, and worst of all, painfully re-herniated a disc in his back that had plagued him for years.
“And then on top of all that,” he says, “We got a new president. That put me into an even darker space.”
Heartbroken but unbowed, Schoepp found solace and direction in his music, devoting his substantial energies to crafting what now proves his most emotional and expertly crafted collection of songs thus far.
“Not that I had any doubts about the direction of my life,” he says, “but I’m approaching 30 and I’m alone. I’d graduated college, I’d toured the world a few times over, been through a couple of record deals, I’d played shows with some of my idols, put out some records. All of a sudden I wondered, what’s next? Where do I go from here? What happens now?
“I came to a bit of a standstill for the first time in my life. And PRIMETIME ILLUSION is what became of that. I was in a rut and these songs were my way of writing myself out. What could be more classic singer-songwriter than that?”
Produced in Milwaukee by Patrick Sansone (Wilco, Robyn Hitchcock), PRIMETIME ILLUSION sees Trapper Schoepp reaching for his own place in the canon with a truly remarkable collection of character-driven songs and stories, a carefully etched series of sonic snapshots in which people we all know struggle to fulfill their own American dream.
Schoepp credits a couple of significant events with getting him out of his ditch and back in the game. He’d told a few friends about his desire to perhaps try working on a baby grand piano, despite his inability to play the instrument. In December 2016, he returned home from another long tour and lo and behold, said friends had arranged for one to be sitting in his living room when he got home. Schoepp spent the next months teaching himself to play the hundred-year-old instrument, writing songs like “Drive Thru Divorce” and “It’s Over” using only white keys.
Make a reservation at AsterCafe.com to reserve your seat for the show.
$10 cover charge will be added to your tab.