Cory Branan

Rare is it that a band will use a ramshackle ballad of Southern-rock longing as a platform for shoutouts to fellow musicians, but Lucero pulled the trick off admirably in "Tears Don't Matter Much." And one contemporary plugged in their song comes to South Florida this weekend. Cory Branan, a skilled alt-country wayfarer from Southaven, Mississippi, has, according to Lucero, "an evil streak/and a way with words that'll bring you to your knees. /Oh, he can play the wildest shows, and he can sing so sweet."

Though flattering, that recommendation doesn't address Branan's most engaging trait: his playfulness. In his 2006 disc, 12 Songs, he throws his handsome, hardy voice into a kaleidoscopic series of exploits. The fairy tale of "The Prettiest Waitress in Memphis" turns a server at a mediocre diner into an impossibly magnificent goddess. The cryptic "She's My Rock 'n' Roll " uses jubilant organ strains to again celebrate a woman through music. In "Muhammad Ali (and Me)," Branan quotes a boast made by "The Greatest" to back up claims of uncontrollable devotion, like saying "My love put the deep in the ocean." When the term singer/songwriter tends to imply glum and pretense, this kind of fun is refreshing.

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Reyan Ali