Imagine my awe and dismay when I was once asked to review an album by Brave Combo called Holidays! on the reputable Rounder Records label. Brave Combo surprised me well when I listened to the cut identified for April 1st. “I got you good. You had no clue. What a joke! I’m so cool. You got fooled. April Fool!”
When formed in 1979 in Denton, Texas, Brave Combo called themselves a New Wave polka band. Three decades later, they've proven they’re much more with influences of country, jazz, rock ‘n' roll, surf, blues, Celtic, Tex-Mex, Latin, Klezmer, big band, and salsa. And, of course, there’s plenty of shock, disbelief and novelty in their music too.
That explains Brave Combo's moniker and cryptic genre, but it's really not all that baffling. Behind the scenes, the band is very serious about their tunes. It shows in their arrangements and musicianship. For us, music is a rather personal thing, and we usually listen to it for enjoyment and stimulation. Holidays! succeeds because there's something for everyone, and the album reminds us to lighten up and not take life too seriously. Just like “April Fool,” the entire album is playful, foolish and often frenetic festivity.
Brave Combo's prime directive is to "break down people's perceptions about what's cool to like in music…. to shake up people's ideas about what they label hip, or right or wrong." They also say that acceptance of polka and other dance rhythms can help bring about world peace. If people start dancing together, they'll also learn to respect each other's cultures too. So put your inhibitions and restraints aside…Get up and cut a rug.
Let Brave Combo’s music surprise you. Their Holidays! album gives us reason to pull the album out at 19 different festive occasions throughout the year. It’s a fun, chronological journey. They begin with "Auld Lang Syne" and "New Year's Polka," then take us through to "Mambo in a Brand New Year."
So how did their Holidays! album come about back in 2004? It seems that Larry King, producer of the TM Comedy Central Network, was on the lookout for good original songs that met their criteria for morning radio shows. With over a dozen albums out on the Rounder label, Brave Combo (Jeffrey Barnes, Alan Emert, Carl Finch, Bubba Hernandez, Danny O'Brien) took on the challenge. Guests on Holidays! include Rob Avsharian, Joe Cripps, Milo Deering, and a whole host of background singers.
While definitely eccentric, Brave Combo has built a legion of fans who like their outlandish song surprises with a grooving, danceable beat. Dr. Demento would appreciate them too.