Album Review // Raised Incorruptible by New Mongrels
By Kevin Tshiamala
A hundred and eighty six year tradition prevailing through the times continuously reinventing its history is the tale of the New Mongrels. It was originally founded in 1861 as the Smythe County Mongrels by a deaf 17 year old veteran of the civil war, Henry Brooke. Henry stated their purpose as “the joyful promotion, through song and rhythmic utterances of a unified moral code for all creatures.” A hundred and fifty three years later the culture, tradition, and creative collective of the Mongrels is continued by Henry’s great grandson, and founder of the New Mongrels Haynes Brooke.
The underground society of musicians, artists and writers still operates under an amended version of the original by-laws, which states, among other things, “membership by invitation without regard to species affiliation.” The collective spans across North America so it is no wonder this is the groups first album since 1998’s Big Cup of Empty. As Brooke said, “The Mongrels are an unwieldy bunch to coordinate – and everyone has their own artistic pursuits. The time has to feel right for a record to emerge.” It took sixteen years for that feeling to emerge, for The Mongrels album Raised Incorruptible just hit the shelves.
The album kicks off with “Time.” A melodic female led folk song that shows great potential, but nothing more. “Love it Madly” has intricate vocal harmonies, nice acoustic melody, but yet again fails to be captivating. So far nothing but blue balls, but the title track brings hope. The song is fueled by an acoustic intro driven by the rough and soulful vocals/lyrics, background harmony, and then great instrumental solo. The song is such a treat that it makes you wonder why they chose not to start the album off strong. Another [JLB] strong song is “Freedom.” The big orchestra ensemble of a cast they call a band, with Brooke’s vocals shares a unique resemblance to a sound combination of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Bob Dylan. Not to mention the lyrics are poetically poignant.
Like most folk ensembles the album has its ups and downs. It seems that because technology has made it easy to put out 10-20 song albums – instead of 6 song A and B side records – that it has become the norm. As a listener, critic, researcher, and fan it is easy to stress that at times less is more. But when it has been sixteen years since your last album, we can only believe that the New Mongrels had plenty to get off their chest. But, it is not as if any of their songs are bad. The songs are well produced, instrumentally sound, folksy tunes such as “Decision Time” and “Early.” Though this is, some are just better than others, as evidenced by “Heal My Heart.” As a listener, you wish every song were on that level.
Regardless, consistent with the overall theme of this album of being present and living life in the moment, as listeners, you will be happy that New Mongrels has continued their tradition and purpose as “the joyful promotion, through song and rhythmic utterances of a unified moral code for all creatures, without regard to species,” through Raised Incorruptible. “Tuborg Gold” is a soothing, but eerie instrumental that waves farewell while drifting afar as it wraps up the album.
For more information please visit the New Mongrels official website: www.newmongrels.com