What the press is saying about "Better Days":
rock is refreshing
With a pure purpose and honest intent, Corndaddy makes refreshingly uncluttered country rock -- keenly aware of the genre's standard-bearers but not absorbed with imitation.
Guitarist-vocalists Kevin Brown and Jud Branam are the creative forces here, a position they staked out on the group's stellar 2000 debut album. On "Better Days," they've delivered more of what made that album click: classic rustic sounds processed through a Midwestern rock 'n' roll filter and balanced with a touch of humor and catchy melodies.
The spirit of the Jayhawks permeates the album, manifested on songs like "Sparkle's Real" and the title track, with tight harmonies from Brown and Branam. Up-tempo tracks like "Big Wheels" reveal Brown's facility with a guitar, as he crafts finely finessed lines that come off clean but not too polished.
Corndaddy is at heart a rock band, a status pleasantly affirmed by the album's official closing track, "Saved By a Dead Man," a just-gothic garage tune inspired by Livonia's Trinity House Theatre. But that's not the end: Tucked on as a hidden track is a spirited cover of the Carter Family's ancient "No Depression."
By Brian McCollum,
"Despite reports to the contrary, alt-country is not dead in the Midwest, and Corndaddy is here to prove it. Corndaddy is a Michigan-based band who blend a country-influenced twang, a power pop band's love of hooks, and a rocker's passion for the backbeat on their second album, Better Days. The band's greatest asset is the fleet-fingered lead guitar work of Kevin Brown, whose sharp, wiry lines sound like the work of a souped-up Roger McGuinn, especially on "Better Days" and "Rainbow on a Girl," while drummer Will Stewart and bassist Jerry Hancock make for a lean and emphatic rhythm section and Jud Branam's reedy vocals are a great fit for this material.
Both Brown and Branam are solid songwriters as well, who can comfortably embrace laid-back country-rock ("Delaware"), bluegrass-tinged folk ("Sparkle's Real"), Bakersfield-style twang ("Kansas City, Mississippi"), and neo-psychedelic pop ("Rainbow on a Girl") without losing touch with the band's musical personality. Fine stuff from a band who deserves wider exposure." Mark Deming, All Music Guide
In the 60ies & 70ies, the Byrds were very popular, the Long Ryders walked in their footsteps in the 80ies; in the 90ies the Jayhawks developed as a leading band, and now there is Corndaddy!
Corndaddy is a group of guitarists from Ann Arbor, Michigan, that was formed in 1998 and originally played cover songs of Bob Dylan and Uncle Tupelo. They made a successful start in 2000 with a record which was a mixture of both the Bakersfield sound and the Liverpool sound.The group thrives on the talent of song writer and guitarist Jud Branam and jack of all trades Kevin Brown; their music cannot be easily categorized.
Their music involves Americana, twangcore, alt. Country and roots, but folk and bluegrass influences (Sparkle's real) are present now and then. From the guitar pop in opener and the title track Better Days, one feels there is magic in the air and when the hit Find My Way explodes with its cute refrain ''oh la la la '', one realizes that there is a nugget of gold in one's cd player.
In Delaware, a beautiful ballad that has been selected for a sound track, and In Twangy Gwendoline, Alan Pagliere plays on pedal steel, but for me the revelations were Rainbow On A Girl and Saved By A Dead Man, two fantastic garage songs that would easily equal the Nuggets version of the 21st century
Corndaddy is surely an up and coming band and in my opinion one of the big discoveries of the year.They take us back to those glorious days when Green on Red, the Fleshstones, the Del Fuegos and other Guadalcanal Diaries threw us into ecstasies.
People like me who intensely experienced and enjoyed these guitarist bands must urgently look for this juwel. After the recent floods everybody could do with Better Days. -- Rootstown Music Free-Zine (translated from the Belgian by Monique Watson)
Whenever I listen to a CD, whether it be an artist I've never heard of or one who is a favorite of mine, I will generally either like or dislike it as a whole; of course, there have been cases where maybe one or two tracks were a little weak on a disc I basically liked or unusually strong on a disc I didn't, but on the whole my final judgment is pretty monochromatic. So, when I listened to Corndaddy's new disc, Better Days, I found myself in unfamiliar territory; namely, that I really enjoyed about half of the CD (six tracks and the hidden track to be technical about it), and considered pulling a Van Gogh when subjected to the remaining four. For me, this was the musical equivalent of Frost's fork in the road, except that both paths were untravelled.
Corndaddy is out of Ann Arbor, Michigan (which shouldn't be held against them) and according to the number of times the word "twang" is used on their web site, I expected to hear a Midwestern version of the alt.-country, if not straight country, music that we have all come to know and love. But here is where the shaky ground begins. The first track, "Better Days," sounds like it could fill in for the theme song to "Friends" if its current theme is ever forced to step down in disgrace, while the second track, "Find My Way," could've easily fit on any of the English Beat's albums. Jangly guitars and an '80s aesthetic rule the day. Then, just as I was about to put the disc on my beer coaster pile, a song called "Delaware" begins with its acoustic guitar strum and lethargic two-step bass line that immediately brought to mind some of the better songs of the Jayhawks. I didn't know what the hell to make of it, so I went one track further to a song titled "Sparkle's Real," and was again confronted with some pretty damned good front-porch acoustic guitar picking that was soon accompanied by only a bass and a mandolin. The song, while not nearly as raw or imposing, kind of reminded me of a couple of Slobberbone's acoustic offerings. In the course of four songs, Corndaddy had managed quite successfully to sound like two entirely different bands.
Apparently, the group's main singer/songwriters (Jud Branam and Kevin Brown) suffer from a musical multiple personality disorder, which forms the identity of the band. Jud Block, rockzilla.net
"I really shouldn't like Better Days as much as I do. The songwriting comes from roots-inflected adult contemporary and far too often Corndaddy crosses into the "clever" post-Barenaked Ladies school of affirming lyrics shoehorned into melodies played so many times that they're practically public domain. Yet I listen to it over and over.
Corndaddy takes by-the-numbers Camper Van Beethoven-lite and uses those weaknesses as strengths. When lead singer Jud Branam sings "Delaware / You never know what's comin' 'round / I can see you working / in a factory in town" in the song "Delaware," the melody pats you on the back like an old friend home from work. The touches of pedal steel add poignancy to the mid-tempo stroll.
Unfortunately, Corndaddy too often settles for making mediocrity out of talent. While "Rainbow on a Girl" is moderately successful as a slice of Flamin' Groovies style acoustic psychedelia, "Big Wheels" goes nowhere interesting. The most obvious love song on the album, "Gwendolina," only serves the dubious purpose of filling a gap in the songs-with-girls-names-as-titles oeuvre.
Luckily "Gwendolina" is bookended by "Blow It Apart" and "Saved by a Dead Man," two of the album's strongest tracks. "Blow It Apart" overcomes the extreme debt to the Tragically Hip with a smoldering mid-tempo rock song, and "Saved by a Dead Man" achieves the rare feat of being religious and not ham-handed or preachy.
For all the moments when Better Days could have been lost in overly striving arrangements, Corndaddy shows that occasionally a lack of ambition is a virtue."
--Josh Steichmann, Current Magazine, Nov. 02
"Local alternative country rockers Corndaddy play a fun, catchy and original mixture of Midwestern-style country rock n roll music on their new CD Better Days. The 10-song CD, with the exception of the hidden bonus track No Depression by the Carter Family, are all original songs written by the twangy team of Jud Branam (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Kevin Brown (lead guitar, vocals).
From the first song and title track, Better Days, to the last, Saved By A Dead Man, Corndaddy creates a refreshingly uncluttered country rock style full of believable feelings and emotions that the band wants to share with the listener. The CD is full of thickly picked, yet simple, guitar riffs and good, timely, funny, backwoods, home-style-cooked lyrics.
Upholding all this is the tight and tough rhythm section of Jerry Hancock (bass) and Will Stewart (drums). The true style of the music, while comparably close to some form of Americana/bluegrass, draws upon other influences of both the old and new country age, as well as the independent college radio genres. From old, established favorites like Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash to more contemporary ones such as the Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo, Corndaddy is able to do it all in their own way.
With the various members floating around the local music scene for a country minute, Corndaddy was actually founded in 1998 and has done a lot to help make and promote the alternative country music scene in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi-tuckey area. This CD is proof.
Whether singing about fishing on the Au Sable in the summertime in Sparkles Real or telling barroom lies over a beer or two in Kansas City, Mississippi, Corndaddy makes one remember the days of a younger past be it camping, fishing, drinking or just thinking in a comforting happy way.
Corndaddys newest CD is available at Rubber Soul Records in Depot Town and will also be available at the Wooden Nickel Saloon where they will be playing Wednesday, November 6."
-- Jeffrey Mick / Eastern (Michigan University) Echo
"The Ann Arbor based Corndaddy describes themselves as Americana, twangcore, alt-country roots music. Their influences run the gamet from the Beatles and Stones, to Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, from the Flying Burrito Brothers and Bob Dylan, to Uncle Tupelo and the Jayhawks. The band was formed in 1998 and features Jud Branam on rhythm guitar and vocals, Kevin Brown on lead guitar/mandolin/harmonica and vocals, Jerry Hancock on the bass, Alan Pagliere on the pedal steel guitar and banjo and Will Stewart on drums, guitar and vocals ...
The CD has 10 original tracks plus a cover of the Carter Familys No Depression hidden away at the end. My favorite tracks are Big Wheels a Hank Williams inspired rocker with some great fuzzy guitar, the twanging Kansas City, Mississippi, the bluegrass/acoustic folk of Sparkles Real, the psychedelic tinged Rainbow On a Girl and Saved By a Dead Man a garagey sounding song, inspired the band says by Trinity House Theater in Livonia.
All in all a very impressive sophomore effort."
Mark Clark, Jam Rag
"Right off the bat, it should be said that two members of Corndaddy, Jud Branam and Will Stewart, are former members of The Ann Arbor News reporting staff. But don't hold that against them ... the ex-newsies and their other two bandmates, Kevin Brown and Jerry Hancock, have produced a dandy roots rockin' CD anyway.
Everything on "Better Days" is original ... (see exception below). Brown has a real talent for writing sparkling, catchy and, dare we say, poppy songs. Nowhere is this more evident on the optimistic title cut and on "Big Wheels," a driving (pun intended) homage to being a trucker that flat out rocks. "Kansas City, Mississippi" is a funny song about telling tales, while "Delaware" is all about a summer the writer spent in Delaware, Ohio.
Brown lets Branam in on the songwriting duties for part of the disc, with the resulting tracks still entirely accessible. Of the latter, "One of These Days," is a fine, uptempo rocker, while "Saved By a Dead Man," a garage-y sounding tune inspired by Trinity House Theater in Livonia, is a cool, quirky number that provides a strong official closer..." Roger LeLievre, Ann Arbor News
thing is it's a great f*****g album and it makes we want to drink beer
and be outside."
Charlie Kondek, Ypsilanti Courier. Read the actual review
Yeah, yeah! This
disc sounds as if The Long Ryders had made their 10-5-60 EP into a full-length
album. Everything that was good about the paisley undergorund movement
of the early 80s is in this CD.
Hailing from Ann
Arbor, Michigan, Corndaddy describe themselves as a rock band with serious
country and folk leanings with a pinch of psychedelia. That's a fair
appraisal and on this, their second album, it sounds a mighty fine blend.
Songwriters Brown and Branam front the band, sharing guitar and vocal
duties and, although each voice is quite distinct, their harmonies on
some tracks sound uncannily like the early Jayhawks vocals of Louris
and Olson which can't be bad. Opening track "Better Days"
kicks off in an upbeat style with an annoyingly catchy simple guitar
riff (think early REM) holding things together and "Find My way"
owes more than a nod to "Brimful of Asha" with some cheesy
pop touches in the "ooh-la-la" chorus. Things dip a little
with the acoustic "Sparkles Real" which potters along going
nowhere until a blistering fuzzed up guitar outro solo (which wouldn't
have been out of place at a Grateful Dead gig) kicks in to save things
and pave way for the standout "Rainbow On A Girl" with its
psychedelic guitar and backwards solo and great Fender Rhodes organ.
"Big Wheels" is a chickin' pickin' delight, a speeded up,
truck drivin' Hank Williams kind of thing with more of that great fuzzy
guitar managing to blur the edges of the wide range of influences this
album wears on its sleeve. Garage rock anthem "Saved By A Dead
Man" closes the album in fine style ahead of the seemingly obligatory
hidden track, a cover of "No Depression" -- (4 of 5 stars)