What do you get when you mix four musicians, two of whom happen to be brothers, with guitars, bagpipes and didgeridoos? Either you get the punchline to a bad joke or Brother, the self-proclaimed Australian Mongrel Rock band.
My introduction to Brother came on the last day of the 2000 Pittsburgh Irish Festival. They played right before Gaelic Storm, who were the reason that I'd made the three-hour trip. (I've been friends with a member of Gaelic Storm since we were both in a high school production of Oliver. I leave you to work out who I'm talking about.) Already out of sorts due to the heat (unusual for mid-September), extreme humidity (about 1,000 percent) and way-too-loud music, I was not looking forward to one more loud act -- and anyway, why on earth would someone put a microphone in a set of bagpipes -- an instrument meant to be heard over the din of a battle?
Well. Much to my surprise, I found myself enjoying their act immensely, though for my hearing's sake; they could have done without the microphones in the bagpipes. They have a tremendous energy and clearly enjoy themselves onstage. I was positive that no CD could live up to that stage show.
I was mistaken. Though only slightly dampened due to the lack of visual component, Your Backyard contains the same energy. The CD is a mix of both uptempo and slower, more introspective songs. Combining bagpipes with didgeridoo is Brother's trademark, and I could have wished for a bit more of that on this CD. Although it does appear, it's not nearly often enough for my taste.
The CD begins with a bang from the didgeridoo on "Stand Beside Me." Other standout tracks include "No Way Round" with its extremely insistent drum beat (though no didgeridoo or bagpipe). "Fly Away" is a slower, quieter piece, somewhat at odds with the band's frenetic image. "Purple Haze" is a melodic song loaded with evocative imagery. "The Time Is Now" includes the combination of didgeridoo and bagpipes and goes on longer than one might expect, with a surprise at the end that I never heard until I finally noticed that my CD player was still clicking and turned the volume up.
As I have discovered since that trip to Pittsburgh, Brother is a popular draw at Irish festivals. However, they do not seem to play a lot of traditional music and there is none at all on Your Backyard. On the other hand, they bill themselves as Australian Mongrel Rock, not Australian Mongrel Traditional.
Although folks looking for the wild sound of a Brother stage show may be somewhat disappointed with Your Backyard, it does, nevertheless, have the same sort of energy. It just needs more bagpipes.
[ by Laurie Thayer ]