NYC is a great place for music. In Prospect Park, Joe Purdy was opening with The Low Anthem following and The Lone Bellow headlining. Somewhere in Manhattan, Jon Snodgrass was performing. And at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn was Cory Branan with Tim Barry headlining.
I had decided that I was going to see Cory and rtb and violaleeblue decided to see The Low Anthem. When I got off the subway in Brooklyn I could smell the rain underground (there’s a certain smell when rain hits very hot pavement). I didn’t have my umbrella so I was hoping it wasn’t too bad and when I got to the steps the sun was shining. I had been underground for the entire rainstorm. Unfortunately, violaleeblue had gotten caught in the same storm in the park and she and rtb decided to join me because the rain was supposed to continue all night.
On the subway a guy sat next to me and I immediately fell in love with him but I left without telling him. I stopped off at Momofuku Milk Bar and had a terrific rye and pastrami pocket with a cereal milk milkshake to mend my broken heart.
Des Ark is singer/guitarist/keyboardist Aimee Collet Argote. As soon as she sat down with her guitar the crowd got quiet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a room hush so quickly. She has a sweet voice that wasn’t so sweet when she just yelled and sometimes her voice sounded Ingrid-ish and sometimes just generic indie girl. None of the songs stuck with me.
The crowd wasn’t as quiet for Cory Branan but then there were a lot more of them and they were yelling out favorite songs. He started with a new song that he said was a combination of Shel Silverstein and Roger Miller. He told us stories about no air conditioning in the van and only two seats for three people. Cory sang songs with southern expressions and he told about not being able to wash the southern off. He’s funny and witty when he’s talking to the audience or when he’s singing. His songs can also be very serious. I love how he plucks and bangs the guitar and then plays a sweet melody. He plays so fast that you think he’s going to have a bloody stump at the end but then he stops and smiles. He sings loudly into the mic and then backs far away – his voice is softer and the presence is gone, so it sounds differently than singing softly close to the mic. Whenever I watch Cory I marvel at his abilities and my mood brightens.
There’s a school of southern punk singer/guitarists with deep voices who now play American roots/folk music and you’ll see many of them on the Revival Tour. Tim Barry is one of these guys. They each have big loyal following, who sing along to every song, and shout out favorites at every show. Cory Branan and Ben Nichols (Lucero) belong to this same school but they’re separated from the group because of their songwriting and talent for sweetness and light mixed in with the post-punk folk. I’d say Cory is even in a class by himself because of his talent with lyrics, music, and artistry with the guitar. But both are more than a few power chords, gruff voice, and straightforward storytelling lyrics.
Barry’s songs are line by line “just the facts, ma’am” stories. He’ll step down into the audience and have everyone circle around him. The audience sings along on every song. His politics hit you over your head. His southernness hits you over the head. He rode freight trains. Drove trucks. Wrote a song for a friend in prison. Sad stories. Stories about quitting your job.
Before the last song, Barry asked the sound guy to blast a Michael Jackson/Jackson 5 song as soon as Barry finished. I guess there were no Jacksons on the sound guy’s iPod because we walked out to “Poker Face.”
By Carene Lydia Lopez