story and photo by Kody Ford, special to The City Wire
FAYETTEVILLE— Fans of Cory Branan and Audra Mae got a double-shot of songwriting prowess as the duo played solo and duo sets on Wednesday night (July 18) at George’s Majestic Lounge. The two are on tour to promote their new albums: Branan’s Mutt and Mae’s Audra Mae and the Almighty Sound.
They were the perfect pair given their fondness for acoustic rock that mixes humor, subtle melodies and a bit of attitude. Chuck Ragan, former front man for Hot Water Music and founder of the Revival Tour, suggested that the two hit the road together. Branan, formerly of Fayetteville, and Mae have both played on the Revival Tour, although during separate years.
Mae was full of good things to say about Branan.
“He’s easy going and respectful,” she said. “I’m just enamored of him as an artist…so this [tour] was a real pleasure.”
Mae played songs from both of her albums. Her voice is a bit raspy with a childlike playfulness. Her onstage swagger portrays a seasoned performer who feels at home on the stage with only her guitar to keep her company. She showcases her wit and adds a dash of cockiness during tunes like “Little Red Wagon. She sings: “You only love my for my thick sunglasses and my Tony Lamas and my Dodge Dark Dart classic”
Mae, the great-great-grandniece of Judy Garland, is edging closer to commercial success. Judd Apatow handpicked her cover of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” for his film The Five Year Engagement and her cover of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” appeared on Sons of Anarchy. She also wrote a song on Susan Boyle’s album.
Branan took the stage looking like his old self, having shed the long locks he sported in 2011. Dressed in black with a cap pulled low, he kept the audience rapt with his ability to shift seamlessly between humor and dark emotions. He played a mixed set featuring tunes from all three of his albums along with some songs.
“The Corner,” the opening track from Mutt, kicked off the set. Branan leaned into the microphone and sang, “Down on the corner of what I want and what I intend to get/Day drinking and dreaming of you/I let the ashtray smoke my last cigarette.”
His ability to manipulate the intensity of each syllable is mesmerizing. By the end of the song, he’d taken the audience into the mind of a man trying to crawl out of the hole he dug for himself.
Tears and desperation weren’t the only things on the agenda. Branan described his set list as “bipolar” since it kept going from happy to sad. The audience copped some laughs during “The Prettiest Waitress in Memphis,” “White T Girl” and the twisted, adolescent love song “Crush.”
Things got dark again when he played “Survivor Blues,” which he described as a song about “wanting to run but knowing it won’t do you any good.” Other highlights included “Miss Ferguson,” the song that Branan performed on The Late Show with David Letterman; “A Girl Named Go,” his ode to fast women and illicit substances; and “Darken My Door,” which he performed with Mae.