I took Monday off in anticipation of the craziness that is a Cory Branan and Jon Snodgrass show–two bad ass songwriters who take turns kicking your teeth in for a couple of hours. Cory’s songs are made of words I wish I had written–tales of loss, teenage crushes, life crossroads, and powerful love. He’s the kind of songwriter that stays on heavy rotation in my house, a guy of which I never tire. And he delivered on the expectations that come with that kind of talent earlier this month. Dude gave us everything he had in the tiny little back room at Rain Dogs in Jacksonville’s Five Points; but it was Jon Snodgrass who got my attention that night.
I have long been a casual listener of Jon’s stuff since seeing his excellent band, Drag the River, open for Lucero in Tallahassee nearly a decade ago. And he was great the last time these two came through town, when Jon and Cory played a raucous, whiskey fueled show at Underbelly Live in downtown Jax. Yet there was something about the intimacy of Rain Dogs that allowed his lyrics to shine in a way that I had not previously heard. There is a beautiful straightforwardness to Jon’s storytelling that was given its due in the tiny room. His lyrics hit you in the way that you need it, and that impact is well communicated live.
Cory has a lyric in one of his songs that says, “Ain’t been transcendent, bunch a nothin’/I’ve been down in it/I ain’t free.” His songs give your ego a punch in the gut, like a best friend bringing you back to Earth with a sly jab in the wake of a major life accomplishment. That’s how this show felt–an intimate night among friends with an eager and appreciative crowd lost in their own heads, questioning whatever it was that needed questioning in that moment.
This was a different show from the aforementioned Underbelly set two years ago–rowdy bordering on slap happy at times, serious and discerning at others. But this stop cemented those two gentlemen as just that–good people with special talents who treat their ability to make a living playing in front of people like a privilege, hell maybe even a duty.
Mid-set, Jon played a song inspired by his daughter, a moment that felt like maybe there was something–well, I can’t say transcendent–but really right with the universe. In its way, the universe gives you what you need. I needed that night–a show that wasn’t too tight, but was every bit a professional rock n’ roll performance by two guys who give North Florida their best on every visit.
Cory Branan and Jon Snodgrass Live Review by Jason Earle.
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