Never in my life have I heard of a band that has lasted almost double the life span of a human. New Mongrols is an Americana-Folk band that has been around for 148 years, and has had their characteristics passed from generation to generation like a sacred token of family pride. Their roots began with the 17-year old American Civil War veteran, Henry Brooke. He started the Mongrels as a group to sing Psalms in their own improvised melodies, which is pretty sweet hearing that on it’s own. Now brought to life as The New Mongrels, Raised Incorruptible is the resurrection of Henry Brooke’s timeless group.
Haynes Brooke, who I suspect is the direct relative, is the mastermind behind this project. With input from other Mongrel relatives, he was able to get permission to bring some lo-fi demos to life. The album opens up with “Time”, a straight forward, but vintage sounding folk-rock track that has the eerie but soothing sounds of the original group floating around It’s pretty bleak, but connecting atmosphere. “Love It Madly” is a stripped down, old time folk song with a twist. It’s melodically contemporary, but the instrumentation is what would be heard from the original Mongrels. To me, it’s weird to think that this group is still running with a same style from 1861.
The melodies on this album are incredible. The chorus of “Raised Incorruptible” puts any other folk artist to shame. The indie scene of today is filled with mock-ups of musicians trying to recreate an old sound, but The New Mongrels have created a vintage sound that doesn’t feel like a copycat. Whether this album was released in 2014 or 1967, they feel fresh but stylistically old fashion. Now that doesn’t go without saying some tracks feel transitions to other monstrous songs. “Gentle” is the definition of dynamic. Comparable to The Lumineer’s track “Submarines”, they use the drums sparsely to create the crescendo, and I wish they continued on with it more.
It’s easy to tell how hands on this group is with their music. They grow from a simple folk riff and lyrics into a orchestrated performance. I can see these tracks being exactly like they are on this album live, considering everything is on cue perfectly. The pride they take in their music does down to the quiet little horn melodies floating behind all the subtle strumming. “Freedom” brings the Jack Nitzsche production style to life that only can be heard on albums like Neil Young’s Harvest. It’s beautiful.
Although Harvest wasn’t liked by many folk artists at the time for it’s over the top production, it’s gone to influence many of today’s indie-folk style. Surprisingly, I don’t find Raised Incorruptible as another Harvest rip off. It doesn’t feel like a cover like other albums released today. Tracks like “Dogs and Kings” bring the sound from years ago into today’s culture very accurately. “Seems” is the only song that feels influenced from other artists heavily, and damn it’s great. Vocally, it’s perfect, and I can see it as the soundtrack to a lonely bar in Midwest USA. Just beautiful.
The New Mongrels had a goal of recreating and continuing the progression of Henry Brooke’s original Mongrels. They wanted to bring the past to life in today’s clustered folk scene of ripoff Young’s and Dylan’s and the odd Springsteen’s. They stick to their own style, and find ways to keep the redundant genre fresh with beautiful instrumentation of horns and strings, and the back-beat of drums behind the standout singing. It’s no wonder they want to keep the tradition alive. Did I also mention the group has 4 dogs as members of the band?