Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Brandos In Exile - Live

The Brandos are a rock band from New York City, formed in 1985, who focus on incorporating American and Irish folk music with their riff driven tunes. It comes with a slight twist since they keep the mandolin in the front a lot. The nucleus has always been the duo of Dave Kincaid - vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo - and Ernie Mendillo - bass guitar and vocals - and they've seen a number of musicians come and go through the years. Making waves in the States initially, The Brandos built a bigger and more dedicated following in Europe, especially in Germany and Holland. It is therefore not surprising that 'In Exile - Live' was recorded in Amsterdam back in 1994 and released a year later. Kincaid and Mendillo are here joined on stage by two New York City luminaries, in the shape of Scott Kempner on guitars and vocals and Frank Funaro on drums and vocals, both from The Dictators and Del-Lords.

Somehow the switch between full-on rockers and the real roots of folk music works so fantastically well, listen to any of the bands' studio albums and you know what I mean. However, it is the most prominent on this live album where the band is more electrifying than ever. From the rocking tunes of 'Get Tough' through the roots rock of 'Anna Lee' to the Irish folk in 'The Recruiting Sergeant' The Brandos takes me on a musical journey of rarely seen proportions.

The previously mentioned 'Anna Lee' is one of my favourites telling a beautiful story about a southern lass performed in full roots regalia. Another super favourite is 'The Warrior's Son' which portrays a son taking over his father's angry heritage of fighting someone else's war. Dave is a a master on the mandolin bringing out so many emotions. Their acoustic version of Stephen Foster's 'Hard Times Come Again No More' is nothing short of breath taking and surpasses with ease the versions recorded by Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen. A rousing rendition of 'Gettysburg' leads the way as well being a haunting tale of the horrors of brother fighting brother. Last on my list of top favourites is the Creedence Clearwater Revival sounding 'Gunfire At Midnight'. Like I've said so many many times before in other reviews, all the songs are very good. It's just that the ones I've mentioned are above the rest in my opinion.

This band should have had much more recognition than they ever received, since they bring something very special and good to the table. But, as with so many great and deserving bands before and after them, full exposure has eluded them. I actually thought the band had broken up since Dave Kincaid has been playing and recording Civil War music. However, a new The Brandos album is in the works and will hopefully hit the streets later this year. If you want to check them out, this live album is the perfect start. But I urge you to back track their entire discography, because you'll have a treasure trove at your hands.

- Swedebeast

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