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Bravado

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John Brannen once shared the bill with then-newcomers Toby Keith and Shania Twain on the promotionally driven Triple Play Tour. Shania went pop and Toby went, well, Toby, while John’s heartland rock sensibilities and grainy voice draw more of their influence from two other famous Johns—rockers Fogerty and Mellencamp—than from any Top 40 country star. Behind the classic-rock guitar riffs are poetic lyrics that shine on songs such as “The Messenger” and the album’s philosophical closer, “Between the Concrete and the Moon.” Though John sports a myriad of musical influences, he seems content to swing between heartfelt acoustic-based fare and midtempo rockers. “Still in the Game”is reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen, with country-style guitar and a yearning but determined lyric about surviving. Tracks like “Raised a Rebel” and “Dog Wants In” rehash other more lively contributions by his heartland heroes, though his credible cover of country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons’ “Hickory Wind” is perhaps the bravest move on Bravado.

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