Protest Songs: Cory Branan - Another Nightmare in America - Solo (Live)

"Another Nightmare In America" Cory Branan @ Rumba in Columbus, Ohio 4.3.17

There is a vibrant experimental streak ripping through roots music.

This one is a minute and 46 seconds of sustained optimism, which is about as long as I can go down that route. The song originated when I was just playing guitar as my son was running around the house one day.

I was just playing along to his energy, making up a melody, and singing gibberish lyrics. Eventually, it started taking shape from there.

I never really invite anyone to be on my records unless I sort of already hear them in my head naturally. I wanted to approach that authentically without coming across as being naively optimistic. For the first time, I played all of the guitars myself on this record. This is a song about a girl living in a small town that makes her feel even smaller.

Coming out of that sophisticated bridge, I initially wanted to take the song down, but it just wanted that sax solo so bad! Robbie Crowell, who played drums and keys on the record, also played the horns.

We just cut the record so fast that we had some time to play around with some of my old stuff and the band locked on to that one so fast. We also kept the drums dry on that one, which sounds like early Police, Zenyatta Mondatta territory.

I got to the studio ahead of the band and our engineer Andrew Ratcliffe had an old Martin acoustic guitar, like from or something. It looked like it had been pulled out of an old shipwreck. It was so beautiful. It ended up being the main acoustic guitar on the record. I started playing it and had already been working out some of the lyrics on the way to the studio. It ended up being about a guy looking for true love but going about it the wrong way in the wrong places.

This is another old one. I usually will cast things in a different light and not be so autobiographical. Luckily, my wife encouraged me to get out of my own head and play it live a few times to see what happened. As soon as I started playing it a few times, the response was remarkable. It turned out to be a lot more universal than I thought. He was a funny guy with a big heart. He was a lot things and I wanted to find the right thing that was the anchor to the song that still felt human and real.

I mean, the second verse was about some of the shitty advice that he gave me. I wanted to show him as he was.

He was flawed, but he was my father. He was a giant and this is my broad-stroke tribute to him. That particular town is a little nothing town and the only reason I know about it is because I used to date a girl from there.

I was born in Memphis and raised in Mississippi.

6 Mar Another Nightmare In America Lyrics: You uppity little...

Some of the better parts of the European tradition are still in there — some of the gothic elements and such — and there are some awful attitudes and ideas that are hanging on as well. Some of it just feels so locked in time. Like most hometowns, I love it and it breaks my heart. This one also taps into my whole eternal grip with small towns about people not minding their own business. They want to know about everything. I had the idea of writing this song as being sung to a woman from the perspective of someone that is dead.

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Sonically, I try to tell stories with the instrumentation as well. I started writing this one a year and a half ago or so. It makes them look bad. I tried to make it hyper-catchy, but it starts with that line with no music, so it dares you to try and not listen. The idea was to have this crusty old bartender who needed an untrustworthy trait, so I made him sexist. But he gives the young guy really good advice that has nothing to do with his sexism.

Amanda really knocked this one out of the park. We go way back. This one was another where I casted things a bit different: A lot of my family is very southern Baptist, teetotalers, very strict, and straight-laced, but lovely people.

My Mamaw was a wild card though. When she died, oh man, the stories they were telling. During her funeral my Grandfather kept trying to hide some of the pictures, like her in a bikini holding a big string of catfish.

During a catfish dinner at church one night she handed the preacher his plate where she had swapped out the fish for a bunch of fried sweetgum balls. There was so much life and so much personality in this one woman.

I had the image of everyone giving up on this one guy except his buddy. I was driving around in Minneapolis in the fall and all the leaves changing made me think it looked like someone hit pause on a fireworks display. That was the image for me of someone being there at the end. Sonically, we went full-on with this one. I had Robbie bring in all his different synths and had him double-up lines and harmonize with them. I had the song in my head for days and we decided to give it a try.

Right before we did, we saw Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings out in Oxford and we got really super drunk. The song is actually completely true. His mother used to go out with Elvis and his father was a famous accordion player back in the old radio days. It feels like the most Memphis song.

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Cory Branan - Another nightmare in America
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This one is a minute and 46 seconds of sustained optimism, which is about as long as I can go down that route. The song originated when I was just playing guitar as my son was running around the house one day.

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