You will be hard pressed, whichever corner of Planet Earth you look, to find a musical legacy that has spanned close to 150 years. And that’s not the only aspect that makes The New Mongrels unique. This group was not simply the brainwave of a bunch of hot-blooded youngsters with guitars, hungry for fame. The journey began in the days when the Civil War was getting started. A teenager who answered to the name Henry hit upon the idea of creating a society which promoted ‘a unified moral code for all creatures’ through song. And towards this noble end Henry and a few comrades, fueled by hard cider, entered a quest to sing all the biblical Psalms along to improvised melodies. The society was enshrined in a charter that was filed in the Smythe County courthouse.
Decades later, in something right out of a movie script, Henry’s artsy great-great grandson Haynes Brooke walks into the courthouse and dusts off the blueprints left behind by his ancestor. He makes up his mind to breathe the Smythe County Mongrels Society back to life as the ‘New Mongrels’. Careful to preserve his great-great grandad’s ideology, Haynes invited members from all over the country who shared the same creative philosophy. The result was an eclectic collective of artists and musicians from seven different cities; LA, Atlanta, Decatur, Boston, Seattle, British Columbia and Vancouver up north. Among the mongrels who responded to the clarion call were touring artists, seasoned singers, gifted instrumentalists, film composers, playwrights etc.
Being a playwright and multi-instrumentalist, Haynes was always writing; whether it be musicals for theatrical performance or songs. “Writing songs is a constant in my life,” admits the New Mongrels leader. He therefore had a wealth of material to draw from when developing a catalog for a Mongrels project. But putting songs together for an album was far from a walk in the park. Here is a snapshot into the creation of the group’s latest offering ‘Raised Incorruptible’, released earlier this month; Mongrels meet in Oregon rental for sketchy recording sessions. Brooke returns with proceeds to LA and hammers out demos with drummer Ken Palmer’s help. Demos broadcast to Mongrels in their different corners of the US. Demos refined with members’ contributions. Further input collected from mongrels in New Hampshire and Canada, final recording begins. Mongrels drop in on Brooke to have their contributions put on wax. Kubilay Uner brings it all together. Phew. No wonder the last Mongrels project to leave a studio was 1998’s ‘Big Cup of Empty’.
But listening to the musically rich, patriotic, spiritual Jan 14 release, you’ll be glad the Mongrels stuck to their tenets and took their time. There is an honest, built-from-scratch feel to every cut in the album, a lot of which has to do with Brooke’s fluid, poetic lyrics. Violins, guitars, accordions, harmonicas and fervent voices blend together to create a vivid image of nineteenth century America, the platform from which the timeless message of the Mongrels is transmitted to the next generation.
Miami Based, Internationally Known
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The New Mongrels