Heart of the Matter

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Corndaddy have been one of the enduring bands on the Midwest alt-country scene since the late 1990s, gigging steadily around their home state of Michigan and recording a handful of solid albums, but 2013's Heart of the Matter, their first full-length in over a decade, shows the band has evolved considerably since they last went into the studio. The country influences that once dominated Corndaddy are still there, but Heart of the Matter is as much about barroom rock & roll and Stax-style soul as alt-country; the band can still work up a serious twang on the acoustic "Elvis Bluegrass Boy" and the rollicking and electrified "Landfill Mountain Boys," but the organ and horns on "Do It Yourself" and the title track give the tunes a pleasing R&B kick, and there's a tough, bluesy undertow to "Red Wing Blackbird" that wouldn't have been present on the band's earlier records. Lead singer Jud Branam brings sincerity and a dash of humor to these songs, and there's plenty of scrappy energy in Kevin Brown's electric guitar, which suits the emotional honesty of these 12 songs just fine. From celebrations of musicians famous and obscure to contemplations of life, love, and the high stakes of integrity in the 21st century, Corndaddy aim for a more ambitious approach, both musically and lyrically, on Heart of the Matter, but they sound like they have their feet firmly planted on the ground at all times, and that's a big part of its strength. Corndaddy have learned a few things without losing touch of their virtues on Heart of the Matter, and it's good enough that one hopes we won't have to wait a decade to hear what they have to say next.

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