Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The unusual visual juxtapositions on the striking cover of singer/songwriter Cory Branan’s first full album in six years (and Bloodshot debut) reflect the conflicted, eclectic music inside. The topless woman with the imposing wolf mask mixes beauty with danger similar to how the opening solo acoustic guitar performance of “The Corner” radically shifts to the Thin Lizzy-styled ’70s hard rock of “Survivor Blues” that comes next.
Elsewhere Branan’s acerbic, often humorous, always thought-provoking lyrics hover over melodies with Tom Waits styled clanky percussion and Klezmer clarinet (“The Snowman), lovely lap steel and piano ballads (“Freefall”) and the country version of “Survivor Blues” that closes the album on a far more reflective note than it began. Branan’s hushed, dry whiskey voice and his sharp edged, story song lyrics make the appropriately titled Mutt a mongrel that rewards repeated spins with an understanding of Branan’s many influences and an appreciation for his largely impressionistic, thought- provoking words.