Combo, Brave


Formed in Denton, Texas, USA, during 1979, the Brave Combo ensemble has pioneered a wholly refreshing sound that matches musical discipline with learned eclecticism and good humour. The seeds of the band were sewn in 1974 when Carl Finch (Born 29 November 1951, Texarkana, Arkensas, USA) became bored with contemporary music and began to delve more deeply into the obscurities of folk and ethnic sounds. As a result he fell in love with polka records. By 1979 he had decided to put a band together in an attempt to revitalize the tradition. Having previously played in rock bands as a guitarist and keyboard player, he now switched to the accordion. However, this early formation of the Brave Combo was greeted with confusion by onlookers, who imagined them to be a satirical group. Nothing could be further from the truth, and Finch eventually found a more sympathetic audience at punk and new wave gigs, where viewers proved more open-minded. Their most successful early performance came at a Czech polka festival in the town of West (near Waco). By this time they had already begun releasing material on their own Four Dots record label. They made their debut in 1980 with the Polkamania double EP.

Numerous line-up changes (including the addition of wind player Jeffrey Barnes in 1983) followed before the release of their debut album, World Dance Music. By now the band had established its sound. Although polkas remained the central component, there were flashes of Latin, Middle Eastern and Cajun music. They were also becoming renowned for their sense of humour (for example, segueing a version of "Tubular Bells" into "Little Brown Jug"). Following the release of a cassette album, Polkatharsis, released to sell at live performances, the band was picked up by Rounder Records, who re-released the album with four extra songs. Subsequent albums for Rounder, particularly Humansville and A Night On Earth, have seen the band develop a strong bond with both roots music and purist polka fans. Tours of Japan have also extended their international audience, particularly through the band's efforts to record material such as "Eejhanaika" in the Japanese language. The Brave Combo have recorded with Japanese ondo star Kikusuimaru as well as US singer-songwriter Lauren Agnelli (ex-Washington Squares), Tish Hinjosha and Tiny Tim. The band's 1995 set, Polkas For A Gloomy World, was nominated for a Grammy as Best Polka Album. Other activities included the issue of a 1991 Christmas album (It's Christmas, Man!), which included a samba recording of "O, Christmas Tree" and a ska version of "The Christmas Song", and the establishment of a new label, Dentone Records.

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