While there is no denying the similarities to Bruce Springsteen in John Brannen's yearning, rootsy vocals, he's no boss wannabe. Instead, Brannen crafts crackling Americana rock and country-tinged heartland music that connects with guts and soul. Think of him as the male counterpart to Lucinda Williams, who joins him for a duet on "A Cut So Deep," one of this album's standout ballads. Brannen splits his time between straight-up, midtempo rockers such as "Heartbreak Ridge" and "Black Mountain Dandy" and the more sincere (ie:softer, acoustic based) material such as the heartfelt, politically charged title track -- his most Springsteen-esque moment -- that dominates the disc's second half. Even though each track is effective individually, this is an album that is more impressive taken as a whole. Brannen's personality becomes more focused and the intensity of the tunes increases as the disc winds on. The closing "The Mountain" perfectly captures the singer/songwriter's message of universal love, leavened with a bit of spirituality and sexuality ("when you touch the burning bush, you're gonna feel the fire") that never feels forced, all set against an easy rolling Eagles styled melody that gradually gains in momentum. Co-produced by Brannen and David Z., the sound is crisp and immediate. There are enough surprises, such as the occasional guitar loop and harmonica to keep the tunes from sounding rote or similar. Lyrically, the often poetically charged and philosophical concepts of songs such as "Goin' Fishin'" and "Boom Baby Boom" belie their deceptively simplistic titles. Brannen is on top of his game here with a set of songs that resonate long after the last note fades on an album that reveals more with repeated listenings.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz
feat: Lucinda Williams