Album Review: Cory Branan – When I Go I Ghost

4/5

Memphis’ musician Cory Branan was faced with the same dilemma his peers faced during the global pandemic, forced off the road and into isolation: how to make music and connect with fans when you are stuck in your house. Branan’s answer was putting out two volumes of digital mixtapes (billed as Quarantunes: Now That’s What I call Isolation) playing songs by Gaslight Anthem, Lucero, demos of his own songs, and even a lullaby he recorded. And as great as these two albums are (and they really are great), it was still not a substitute for a new album of all-original songs.

With vaccines in arms, tour vans loaded and the world relatively back to normal, Branan is finally back with a brand-new album, When I Go I Ghost. “I pulled these songs from a batch of 50 that mostly predate the pandemic, and all of these felt kin,” he said recently. “They’re about doubt, loss, depression, general stir-craziness.”

The result is quite possibly his most consistently satisfying record yet in his two-decade long career. The album opener, the raucous “When In Rome, When In Memphis,” is a brilliant introduction to what follows with punk rock guitars and a chorus you can’t shake. Brian Fallon and Jason Isbell join Branan for the track (Isbell stuck around the studio to play guitar and/or sing harmonies on five of the tracks here).

The album vacillates between boisterous moments like “When I Leave Here,” with its fuzzed-out guitars, and quieter fare like the sweet duet with Garrison Starr on “Waterfront,” a stellar song about getting into a relationship that may not be for the best, and a song like “Angels In the Details.” But one of the strongest songs here and one of the best in his already impressive cannon is “That Look I Lost,” a classic tear in my beer Americana song at its core that’s been given a remarkably exhilarating makeover with horns and strings (and a brilliant guitar solo slathered in a wah-wah effect).

Branan managed to keep fans hanging around through the pandemic with his eclectic mixtapes, but When I Go I Ghost is the real reward for those who stuck around—a fantastic album from start to finish.

Purchase this album.

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