Cory Branan with Tim Easton April 21, CSPS Hall, Cedar Rapids, IA

Cedar Rapids, IA (April 26, 2015)
“Everything about a tour is B.S. except for those two hours you get to spend on stage”
Remember “Twin Sons of Different Mothers” by Tim Weisberg and Dan Fogelberg? They partnered up and talked a lot about how much alike they were in so many aspects of their lives, including their music. Cory Branan and Tim Easton are like that, even though the closest Cory comes to saying so is explaining why he enjoys touring with Tim: both of them feel the same way about touring, as expressed above.
 Cory and Tim would have to be fraternal twins. Cory is tall and lanky, and bounces about the stage with abandon. Tim is shorter and more compact, and tends to approach the mic in a more reserved manner. Cory bangs away on his hollow body electric like he’s fronting a rock band, while Tim prefers acoustic. Cory offers a broad grin and commands a lot of attention on stage while Tim seems almost a bit shy, his smile giving the impression that he likes to sit back and watch the proceedings rather than be the center of attention Both of them dazzle with guitar skills and lyrics that let you know they are serious about their music and what it says about life.
 They’re rough and tumble, whiskey straight up kind of musicians who offer themselves up in all the raw glory that the best songwriters do, getting the audience pumped up to the point of rowdiness. That’s they way they and their fans like it, and it was the atmosphere for those two hours of no B.S. music they provided at CSPS Hall.
 Tim was up first. He’s the acoustic only kind of guy on the tour and his playing compliments his song stylings perfectly. Both instrumentally and vocally he’s equally adept at slower, finger-picked ballads and bluesy numbers with the classic feel of many an acoustic blues master. Of the latter style of songs Tim played, I particularly liked “Northbound”, which is Tim’s musical commentary on the social phenomenon known as Los Angeles. Tim also wove some tasty harmonica playing into most of his songs.
 Tim’s songs are like good whiskey. His musical style is  like the first couple of shots that give you a nice buzz. But then is you really start listening to the lyrics, it’s like that one shot too many: you start thinking about how much life can suck, but you still have to deal with it the best you know how and hold on to the idea that all that really matters in the end is honestly loving the right person.
 Tim’s all too short set masterfully expressed all the range of emotion life has to offer in a down to earth, cigarette smoke but no mirrors style that left the audience hoping he will soon return to Cedar Rapids.
 After a short intermission, Cory Branan came on stage.  He immediately came across as less introspective than Tim, with an infectious grin and more banter between songs. Stylistically, Cory has been described as “too punk for counry and too country for punk”. That was evident during his entire set. He would take a country feeling song and drive it to the brink with his hard pressed guitar playing and singing with a fervor that made me wonder if he would pour so much into a single song that he’d run out of steam after a couple of numbers.
 He didn’t. If anything, as his set wore on, Cory gained even more fervor and energy with each song he performed. He had an hour or so to perform, and he was going to make sure that hour was well worth it for both himself and the audience.
 Cory’s songs often feature a wry humor offset by a touch of pathos that played well against Tim’s lyrical style.   “No Hit Wonder” has an ambiguous title, but I enjoyed how it told the story of many a musician’s life: staying true to one’s own sense of musical integrity in the face of knowing that selling out could bring wealth and fame. The pathos of the song is doubly effective when you realize there is an autobiographical element to it.
 Then there was the outright quirkiness of  “The Prettiest Waitress in Memphis” (one of my favorites from the concert) a song in which the lyrics elicit laughs while revealing how two lonely people can connect at a deeper level than is apparent.
 “Missing You Fierce” I think epitomizes Cory’s life as a musician. The song offers deceptively simple yet eloquent lyrics about how much he misses his wife when he’s touring. Many songwriters (especially country artists) would have made it into a “tears in my beer” ballad. Instead, Cory drives the uptempo song with a ragged voice that echoes  the emotional conundrum of being on tour: a musician has to spend weeks, sometimes months, away from the one he loves the most.It’s the only way he can make a living as well as be true to who he is, to be the person his wife loves. For a musician, that’s how things have to be, love it and hate it at the same time, because that’s the only way a singer knows how to deal with the B.S. life in general hands out.
 Cory Branan and Tim Easton both gave no B.S. performances at CSPS Hall, and the audience much appreciated it. I’m hoping to see them again soon. No B.S.

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