It's not easy in today's fragmented market to find a place for a record as versatile and rewarding as "The Good Thief." Brannen produced this fourth album (and first for the Sly Dog imprint of Detroit

It's not easy in today's fragmented market to find a place for a record as versatile and rewarding as "The Good Thief." Brannen produced this fourth album (and first for the Sly Dog imprint of Detroit jazz indie Mack Avenue) with veteran guitarist Pete Carr. The band features other all-stars, such as Clayton Ivey, the man with the big Hammond and Wurlitzer organ sound. Brannen wrote most of the songs with Jack Tempchin, the co-writer of such Eagles hits as "Already Gone." But Brannen's expressive story songs dig deep: One listen to "Summer in Savannah" and you'll be soaked from the humidity. 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. "Don't Wanna Lose Like That Again" and "Learning to Dance" have the stuff of standards. You could easily hear the Mavericks' Raul Malo taking them home to adult top 40 or country formats, if not Brannen himself.—WR