John Brannen
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John Brannen

Charleston, South Carolina, United States | INDIE

Charleston, South Carolina, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Americana


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"John Brannen Quotes"

… Brannen’s expressive story songs dig deep … Though his well-traveled voice can recall Steve Earle or Springsteen, at times Brannen will jump an octave and reach for the soaring romanticism of Roy Orbison. – Billboard

John Brannen has proven himself a fine songwriter with an acute eye. He wraps stories in a smoky voice that calls to mind a younger Springsteen. – Vintage Guitar

… an original hybrid. – No Depression

Combined with his southern rock sensibility, Midwest mentality and occasional country inflection, Brannen has a poet’s touch.- Entertainment News & Reviews

To hear the music of John Brannen is to hear the music of the South. – Charleston (SC)
Post and Courier

“John Brannen is an earthy troubadour who warrants comparisons to Dylan and Springsteen.” – Hittin’ the Note
- various


Mystery Street/1988
John Brannen/2003
The Good Thief, 8/17/2004
Twilight Tattoo 6/27/2006




Brannen’s most recent release for Sly Dog Records, “Twilight Tattoo,” includes 12 evocative numbers ranging from rockers to soaring ballads. Co-produced by David Z, whose work with artists like Prince, Buddy Guy, and Gov't Mule, made “Z” the perfect partner to capture Brannen's sound, which he describes as "eclectic Southern rock with soul and R&B influences."

Brannen, who duets with Grammy-nominated artist Lucinda Williams on "A Cut So Deep" for his newest CD, “Twighlihjt Tattoo.” –makes a an electrifying rock 'n' roll album, that delivers a voice mixing grit and beauty with combustible firepower, not to mention soul.

It's a gift that Brannen comes by naturally if not genetically. Hailing from a family whose Southern heritage stretches back to before the American Revolution, his ninth great-grandfather was governor of South Carolina. Born in Savannah, raised in Charleston, Brannen was exposed to a wide range of music by his mother and a love for poetry by his grandfather, who Brannen says, “knew all the classics and could recite them off the top of his head."

Brannen's grassroots popularity prompted music executives to take notice.

"They had to literally drag me kicking and screaming into the industry," Brannen explains. "I was in my own little world. What would I want to do that for?"

Then Rock icon Joe Walsh heard Brannen’s tape. They met in Memphis and forged a friendship that would lead Brannen to Los Angeles. In 1987, he signed on with Apache Records.

Brannen’s 1988 debut album, “Mystery Street,” landed him on the cover of Billboard Magazine, describing his record as "a panoramic rock 'n' roll dreamscape of emotions.” The single, “Desolation Angel” was MTV’s “Hip Clip.”

However, Brannen’s success became too much to handle, hard luck hit and Apache Records went under. But Brannen didn’t dissolve, he continued to deliver. He decided to cut a second album on his own. It worked.

Mercury Records in Nashville picked it up and Brannen hit the Top Ten video charts again. "Moonlight and Magnolias" graced VH1's Top 10, his label broke him out as a country artist on a three-act tour with Toby Keith and Shania Twain. Brannen just lays out the truth of the “break.”

“I was a round peg that didn't quite fit Music City's very square hole,” he recalls. "Suddenly I was in the country music business, which was kind of funny. I was supposed to be the outlaw guy because I wasn't from the country music business. And that wasn’t me at all"

Just as Brannen was about to record a follow-up album, an executive shake-up at the label left Brannen out on his own… again.

What would happen next? Undaunted by the travails of the music business, Brannen’s raw sense of reality and determination kicked in.

"I decided, hell, I'm just going to go make a record that has no regard for any format whatsoever"

Enter record number 3; “Scarecrow.”

Detroit-based independent label Sly Dog signed Brannen up. The record label released, “The Good Thief” in 2004.

“Sly Dog gave me creative freedom and that is the greatest gift you can give to an artist,” Brannen humbly admits. “It is a label that truly respects the songwriter and puts the quality of music as the first order of business.”

Hailed as "an original hybrid" (No Depression Magazine) the album was co-produced by master guitarist Pete Carr and featured A-list players like bassist Willie Weeks, and keyboard player Clayton Ivy.
“Brannen’s magnetic quality on stage is something to behold” The Album Network

Now Brannen’s newest CD release, “Twilight Tattoo” finds this songwriter talking a lot about the war in Iraq, his southern heritage and characters within the Carolinas. His roots have never been more profoundly exposed.

The set starts with a rousing glance toward his past on "Just Restless."

"I've been that guy on and off for too many years," Brannen admits with a chuckle - and chronicles some of his own story on such emotionally-stirring numbers as "Almost Love," "A Cut So Deep" and "Rain."

Brannen takes listeners on a rocking gallop along "Heartbreak Ridge," finds profound metaphorical power in the elemental act of "Goin' Fishin'," and introduces us to vividly quintessential Blue Ridge Mountain characters in "Black Mountain Dandy" and "Jericho Road."

Then there's the title track - "a song I had to write," says Brannen - and its look at troops in Iraq and Afhanistan through the eyes of a rank and file southern guy in the National Guard.

"In the modern world, war's devastation is on civilians more than soldiers, and it's something I just couldn't ignore," Brannen explains. "I wanted to make a record that was a little more fun equally as dark, which is the way it is with me, because ultimately my well-grounded sense of place and musical style permeates whatever I write. I'm a Southern American artist. What I do is out of the essence of rock 'n' roll with soul and blues influences."