The modest packaging of The Bent Branches' debut is detailed with hand-screened blue birds that appear to have escaped from an open cage hanging from bare branches, and the name of the album, "Salvo," is printed along the bottom in an antique, circus-type script. It is a suitable package for the delicate, down-home feel of the music contained within.
If the voices on the album sound familiar, it is because The Bent Branches are a subset of another popular Jackson band, roots-rockers Goodman County. Lead singer Cody Cox and guitarist/bassist Josh Taylor decided to take the music in a slightly different direction with The Bent Branches, scaling back on the instrumentation and exploring the more subdued, emotional side of southern music.
"Salvo" begins with quiet guitar and lazy harmonica reminiscent of the opening notes of Neil Young's "Harvest" album. The song is "Hannah," and it meanders along, musing about what else? A girl. "The Mighty and the Lovely," is a plodding song of self-pity, with a heartrending cliché chorus of "Woe is me."
The Bent Branches' influences are not far removed from those of Goodman County. There are obvious traces of The White Stripes, Tom Waits and Johnny Cash woven throughout. On "If I Was A Knight," Cox perfects his Jack White impression, and Hendrix-esque kazoos add a lighthearted touch to the intro and outro of the song. Other influences are newer acts like Iron and Wine and Ray LaMontagne.
If you are looking for the hard-rocking, beer-drinking and fist-fighting music of Goodman County, look elsewhere. Sure, you can drink beer while listening to "Salvo," but if you are prone to depression, be warned that you may be crying in said beer by the end of the album. The Bent Branches offer a delicious dip into misery, with the occasional upbeat tune thrown in to keep things from going too far.
Fans of Goodman County need not despair—the group is still going strong. The Bent Branches released "Salvo" on Nov. 1, and will play at B & E's wine bar in Hattiesburg on Dec. 1. The album is available on the band's MySpace page.