Mello Bravo is :
Keith Pierce: Vocals, Guitars
Jess Collins: Keyboards, Vibes, Vocals
Dave Jarvis: Drums
Andrew Doherty: Guitars
Seager Tennis: Bass, Vocals
Jeffery Fultz: Guitars
Additional Musicians :
Pepe Anzalone / Dana Fisher: Cello on track 6
Benny Grotto: Percussion on track 7
Recorded at Mad Oak Studios, Allston, MA.
Recorded, produced, and mixed Benny Grotto.
Assisted by Thayer Harris.
Mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering, Boston, MA.
Assistant Mastering Engineer: Maria Rice.
Album artwork and layout by Michael Crockett.
Music by MELLOW BRAVO
Lyrics by Keith Pierce, additional lyrics by : Jess Collins (track 2), Andrew Doherty (track 4)
Boston sextet Mellow Bravo tackles classic rock with engaging songwriting and gritty musical interplay on their eponymous sophomore effort. This 11-track affair features the group wandering in between a bevy of richly performed styles without fully choosing one to follow while piano, twin guitar, and prominent bass and drums provide the punch and bolsters the diverse smoky blues to melodic punk to wistful Americana to blue collar arena rock of yesteryear atmospheres found. Armed with deep vocal harmonies from both male and female perspectives, an undercurrent of metallic heaviness that never quite reaches the surface and an expandable musical versatility fostered by six musicians unclouded by classifications with an aim to make the best song possible, Mellow Bravo cross Guns ‘N Roses, Clutch, Jackson Browne, and Avail and add their own classic rock inflections to make a captivating release full of passionately crafted rock ‘n roll.
- Mike SOS
Mellow Bravo's self-released debut, Strut, showed a restless refusal to abide by predetermined music genre boundaries, and their eponymous follow-up on Small Stone takes things even further, as they launch themselves off the precipice of hard rock fundamentals into a colorful array of styles and vibes, never once concerning themselves with the potential "splat-down" that awaits below. And why should they? They're bound to rebound right back into the sky (and then bounce off into the infinite horizon) merely on the strength of each song's universally irresistible hooks, revealing of a pop intelligence not often found amongst guitar-wielding troglodytes also capable of churning out potent alterna-rockers like "Sad Sam" (nice organ), "Shake Shake Shake" (nice melodic licks), and "Love Hammer" (nice slide guitars and improvised vocal break). As suggested earlier, though, Mellow Bravo are just getting warmed up for the juke joint jump blues of "Prairie Dog," the eminently danceable rewrite of Van Halen's "I'll Wait" named "Leave When You Please," the folky lament of "Big Block," and the effortless fashion with which "Lioness" shifts from heavy rock to plaintive piano and finally a gang singalong -- all of it reminiscent of Faith No More in all their schizo-brilliance. Another departure, "Señorita," is so successfully sentimental, it's almost cloyingly so -- at least until the Southern-fried geetars kick the door in. And, while frontman Keith Pierce shows little compunction about wreaking havoc on his vocal cords throughout, keyboard player Jess Collins lends a melodious voice of reason to the choruses of "Where the Bodies Lay," "When I'm in Pain," and others before taking command of the delirious pop punker "Ridin." But perhaps most impressive of all, the final result proves remarkably listenable despite this broad range of sounds, and, like very few albums in the digital age, virtually demands encore listens immediately. This is clearly the sign of a proper album-length vision realized, and a promising indicator of Mellow Bravo's potential to succeed.
- Eduardo Rivadavia
Summary: It enters the realms of classic rock with tremendous hooks and admirable diversity.
Following an excellent debut is never easy. With their first self-released disc Strut, Mellow Bravo upped the ante for themselves by presenting a distinct take on classic rock finding the middle ground between engrossing songwriting and vivid arrangements. This style perfectly translated into lively concerts which earned them a reputation for being one of the most entertaining underground rock acts in the US. As a result, the Bostonian sextet didn't have to wait long to release their sophomore LP under the wings of formidable Small Stone Records. On their slickly produced, eponymous album, Mellow Bravo expand their musical horizons merging their trademark infectiousness with the whole gamut of various rock influences.
Great diversity and refusal to stick to a fixed genre make Mellow Bravo impossible to pin down. “Sad Sam” opens the disc with thumping blues rock highlighted by superbly harmonized harmonica play and impassioned vocals. Keith Price's gruff voice shares the same register with Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman, yet he proves to be even more versatile especially when paired with keyboardist Jess Collins who delivers soulful, high-pitched singing. Their vocal interplay on numerous tracks is the asset that can't be underestimated. Inspired by both post-punk and reggae, “Where The Bodies Lay” relies on a startling contrast between their voices making for a truly enchanting tune, while driving heavy metal of “Ridin'” makes Collins shine with her assured leading vocal performance.
It's astounding how expertly Mellow Bravo perform in their every incarnation. Even when they venture into a potentially risky folk territory on such songs as “Prairie Dog” and “Big Block,” they remain stellar by means of quality song craft and a tangible sense of Americana these songs encompass. However, the band seems to embrace their hard rock tendencies to the best effect. “Lioness” is a highlight that embeds notable pop and funk aesthetics into the group's sound without sacrificing the meatiness of southern rock. Out of several ballads, bluesy “When I'm In Pain” stands out with its 1950’s doowop references which serve as an ideal backdrop for a heartfelt verse being followed by a booming chorus.
Brimful of infectious hooks and emotive vocals, Mellow Bravo is absolutely devoid of subtlety. The album hits hard though and thus delivers its fair share of addictive tunes that somehow steer clear of cheesiness while covering a multitude of subgenres. The band needs to be applauded for making rock music that's solidly composed, supremely accessible and deeply ingrained in American tradition. All these qualities merit multiple listens, especially in the summertime.
- Greg Fisher
A classic rock-minded outfit with catchy songs, crisp production and a charismatic frontman leading the way with quirky vocals and infectious hooks? If Mellow Bravo were from Brooklyn, they might be called The Giraffes, but even so, the Bostonian six-piece show marked personality on their self-titled sophomore outing, sounding like mature players even if the band’s only been around for three years. Mellow Bravo’s Mellow Bravo was recorded and mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios in Allston and is released via a new Small Stone imprint of the same name: Mad Oak Recordings. Much has been said of that label’s growing roster around these parts, but Mellow Bravo distinguish themselves by means of a style that borders on heavy rock without ever fully committing itself to the tropes of the genre. Roadsaw might be the closest comparison to another act – and there seems to be some relationship there since Roadsaw vocalist Craig Riggs owns Mad Oak and bassist Tim Catz co-directed Mellow Bravo’s video for the song “Where the Bodies Lay,” the second of the 11 tracks on the album – but what the two bands have in common is mostly geography, an affinity for structure and strong choruses; not a grouping limited to them alone. And perhaps it’s to Mellow Bravo’s credit that also one can hear shades of ZZ Top, Thin Lizzy, Guns ‘n’ Roses and others, none really emerges as a defining influence – that is, you don’t come out of listening to the album saying, “Mellow Bravo sounds like…” and then easily coming up with a name to fill that space – and the band sound like themselves most of all as a result. What they’re doing isn’t really original or trying to be, but they’re putting their stamp on the rock and roll ideologies that preceded them.
Manning the frontlines in Mellow Bravo is vocalist Keith Pierce, a gifted singer who comes across on the album like someone you’d want to see live, and able to be brash, as on “Where the Bodies Lay,” melodic, as on “Lioness” or even subdued, as on the Use Your Illusion II-informed album centerpiece, “Senorita.” His chemistry with keyboardist/vocalist Jess Collins results in an album highlight on the countrified later cut “Prairie Dog,” and though Collins’ moment at the fore – the “ooo-wee” laden “Ridin’” comes across as contrived in comparison to what’s around it; it’s probably the single dumbest feeling critique I’ve ever made, but I just didn’t believe her “ooo-wee” was sincere – the chorus remains effective. With a lineup filled out by guitarists Jeff Fultz (ex-Seemless) and Andrew Doherty, bassist/vocalist Seager Tennis and drummer Dave Jarvis, Mellow Bravo sounds as full as one might expect a piano-inclusive six-piece to sound, and the self-titled has a palpable flow and changes in mood that seem to come almost on a track-by-track basis, opening with a crisp (there’s that word again) trio of rockers in “Sad Sam,” “Where the Bodies Lay” and “Ridin’” before “When I’m in Pain” slows down the momentum – Tennis offering an engaging bass groove in the process – and begins a tug-of-war of energy that plays out in the back and forth of “Lioness,” “Senorita,” and the riffier mid-paced blues stomp of “Love Hammer,” which leads the way into the effectively rocked back end of the album, the later cuts affirming the unpretentious pop accessibility of the earlier ones without being redundant stylistically in the process. It continues to amaze me how a band like this can be so unabashedly accessible and remain – for lack of a better word – unaccessed. With the rampant commodification of popular music that’s seen every day in commercials, television, film – hell, even greeting cards play songs now – there has to be some room for a band like Mellow Bravo to cash in on what they’re already doing, which basically is that level of pop rock, just with louder drums.
Maybe that’s enough to make all the difference, but even so, the songs on Mellow Bravo don’t sound like they’re trying to cash in on something – why the hell would they? There’s nothing to cash in on (and also, now that I say that out loud, not purposefully being vacuous in the name of accessibility might also be part of the issue), radio’s a cesspool, and even if there was money to be made, Mellow Bravo seem to be more about the live show than whatever they might be able to get out of doing a record, even one as solid as this self-titled. Certainly “Shake Shake Shake” makes that argument, with Pierce playing a bit of the raving madman to give “Prairie Dog” something to bounce off of, so that as he and Collins trade lines and complement each other on the farther-off-the-mic first half of the song, it can remind some of the band’s range and their range as individual performers within it. It’s a solid bit of country shuffle, ol’ timey meeting with boozy swagger, and the ’80s keys of “Leave When You Please” are something of a shock afterwards, but it’s hard to imagine that wasn’t the intent all along. Pierce shouts a strong verse and is well backed during the chorus, which winds up as one of the best hooks the album has on hand, but it’s a longer, somewhat moodier instrumental break that helps stand the song out, Collins’ keys staying prominent while the guitars elicit drawn-out leads, Jarvis builds tension in the toms and soon the track opens up to a lead that, in another context, might be very, very metal. They bring back the chorus one last time – songwriting, after all, being a core value – and soon acoustic closer “Big Block” ends with a last-minute splurge of dual-vocal charm. I find myself liking that side of Mellow Bravo’s sound a lot – the mellow side, oddly enough – but though it’s familiar, the can’t-put-my-finger-on-it nature of the louder, more rocking material is still what would make me want to show up and catch the band on a too-small stage, preferably in an uncomfortably hot room with cheap beer and a cheaper P.A., winding up afterwards poorly singing the chorus of “Lioness” in a Beantown gutter. I can think of far worse ways to spend an evening.
- H.P. Taskmaster
Rock is a broad church, come and worship at the altar of Boston's Mellow Bravo.
From the opening bars of their eponymous second LP, it would seem that subtlety is not a word in Mellow Bravo's vocabulary. Opening track Sad Sam has guitars a-riffing and harmonica a-wailing over a rock solid blues rock rhythm, with vocalist Keith Pierce straining to be louder than everything else. The result hits home hard on first listen but soon loses its impact after a few more spins. A shame then they chose to open the album with this track, as the album does possess some finer and more satisfying moments.
Take for example the following track Where The Bodies Lay, a more brooding, less obvious yet ultimately more satisfying track built around an almost military marching rhythm. It's also marks the first appearance of second vocalist Jess Collins whose voice acts as a sonic soothing balm to Pierce's sandpaper growl. Collins then takes the lead on Ridin', a full pelt metallic punk rocker.
As if to demonstrate the band's mutability and stylistic range they then take the heat off for When I'm In Pain, a track that is at heart all country soul yet wrapped up here in the odd piece of rocker's clothing. The piano arpeggios and Steve Cropper-isms of the verses leading into the crunchy biting power chords of the choruses.
Lioness is one of the album's best songs, with the slight hint of funk added to the its rock heart. Nice vibes intro, guitar squeals, and big radio-friendly chorus mark it's territory before tricking you into it's melancholy, piano-led outro.
As a band they're difficult to pigeonhole. Yes it's rock, but that as we know is a broad church. While they seem equally at home tackling country strummers such as Senorita, a track that begins as a low key cowboy lament before building into a full band effort, it's the heavier end of the rock music canon that they return to for Love Hammer. And that probably where they feel most at home, firing on all cylinders, as on Shake, Shake, Shake. A late album example of the band's knack for full-on melodic rock.
Still time for an acoustic track though with Prairie Dog beginning as a good timey camp fire sing-a-long before it's given the the band's Johnny Cash train rhythm treatment. Similarly the album's closing track Big Block highlights the band's fine acoustic side. Overall a pretty decent album, though one which the print press will have trouble putting a label on due to its variety and refusal to stick to a fixed genre.
- Duncan Fletcher
Some of us with a limited scope of vision figured Mellow Bravo — who strive for the crown of America's ultimate bar band — only had three possible strategies for following up 2010's Strut. They could play it safe and make Strut again; push their haggard, bluesy sensibilities to the forefront; or punch up their flamboyant arena-metal intensity. Recognizing a false choice, Boston's Bravo went for more grit and more thunder, scaling the crag by fashioning their answer to Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion. Although the solo on "Senorita" conjures Slash's heroic signature on "Estranged," Mellow Bravo is perhaps not on par with GNR's masterpiece. But it beats the living shit out of Chinese Democracy and everything Velvet Revolver ever squatted out. Doubters must heed the gut punch of "Love Hammer," the honky-tonk lament of "Prairie Dog," and "Ridin'" — a track destined for a spot next to "Eye of the Tiger" on your iPod's workout playlist. Keith Pierce and company loosen the rock-and-roll belt a bit and explore more complex sounds on Mellow Bravo, their sophomore record, but they're still able to beat you senseless with that same belt when they absolutely must.
- Barry Thompson
Mellow Bravo never met a strain of guitar rock it didn’t like. On its self-titled debut, the Boston sextet contrasts hard rock that drives (Ridin”), blazes (“Shake Shake Shake”) and thumps (“Sad Sam”) with dynamic pop (“Lioness”), snappy country rock (“Prairie Dog”) and brooding Southern rock (“Senorita”). Guitarist Keith Pierce‘s gruff roar (eerily reminiscent at times of Jaz Coleman) bounces off the androgynous croon of keyboardist Jess Collins, often in the same song. Keyboards and guitars clash and co-mingle in ways suggestive of everyone from Deep Purple to the Faces to Faith No More. Even the group’s themes defy expectation – the aggressive blast of the macho-sounding “Love Hammer” conceals anguished cries of “This is not the way to communicate!” No matter which way the band’s wind blows, Bravo plays it all with conviction – this is variety, not dilettantism, and the group’s dedication to melody and consistent guitar tones holds it all together in any case. In a purer time, Mellow Bravo would’ve ruled AOR radio, and we’d‘ve gladly accepted its tyranny.
- Michael Toland
Boston is a cradle of rock music- not least due to the famous berklee college. In this town Mellow Bravo was founded three years ago to extract the best out of four decades of rock music.
Now there is the five’s self titled debut album which can be bought in germany from April 13th. And it’s sounding good, this extract by Mellow Bravo. Especially because of the impressive alternating vocals by Keith Pierce and organist Jess Collins.
The band provides bluesy, rocking grooves mixed with some shares of hard rock from 70ties till today, Deep Purple is meeting Van Halen, and again and again nice interludes on the piano, unloading the sound a little. Mellow Bravo are treating themselves to the luxury of reducing the power, the loudness and to provide the audience different impulses instead of the usual and always the same full-power-stew.
Track number five, titled “Lioness”, should be perfect to be played live: Not only its awesome intro is ideally suited to fire up the crowd, there is also a long part to the extensive use of cigarette lighters and bawling unrestrained along.
The album is fine. But I think Mellow Bravo live would be even better. So: Buy the record and use it to kill the time until the european tour!
Mellow Bravo is the redheaded stepchild of the Small Stone roster, the outcast whose self-titled second album came attached with the following statement from the label: This is NOT stoner rock. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be scared or excited; it’s like going to a steakhouse and being told I wouldn’t be served a bleeding slab of meat. I mean, I love steak, but the unknown alternative could be just as satiating. So, what is Mellow Bravo if not a stoner rock band? Well, they’re dark blues foragers, hard rock hucksters, a sextet of rum running rock n’ roll pirates from Boston adept at seizing all kinds of loot in some very deep waters. They’re Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Black Mountain, Thee Hypnotics, Beasts of Bourbon, Zen Guerrilla, and Slash all at once, if you can imagine it, and tear through ragged harp (“Sad Sam”), aggressive riffing (“Ridin”), cowboy ballad (“Senorita”), temperamental slide (“Love Hammer”), and back porch folk (“Prairie Dog”) with all the sizzle and strut of rock gods going home to roost. The depth of sound and soul found on Mellow Bravo must truly be heard because it contains so many undefinable elements, but basically this is the kind of guitar driven gusto that plays well from campfires to stadiums and any dive bar in between. And that’s saying nothing of the band’s ace in the hole, organist/vocalist Jess Collins, who adds all the smoke to this star-tickling fire. So, it turns out I was supposed to be excited. I am.
- Jeff Warren
Goddamn!!! Us music journos don’t like being confused!!! We don’t like it when bands make us think about what we’re writing, we prefer to dismiss bands’ hard fought creations with glib epithets that give us more time to sit in our ivory towers snorting cocaine off of hookers’ asses!!! If we can’t make throwaway comparisons to bands like Kyuss, Black Sabbath, Metallica…etc then we don’t actually know what to do with ourselves. Bands like Boston’s Mellow Bravo are not our friends but fortunately for them, bands like Mellow Bravo are fucking awesome!!!
At their core, Mellow Bravo are a hard rocking, blues based rock and roll band but after the stomping, harmonica fuelled stomp ‘n’ crunch of opening track “Sad Sam” it becomes clear that these guys are far more than just a beer and sweat bar band as “Where The Bodies Lay” comes on like the dirty cousin of The Clash’s “London Calling” with a loose New wave meets reggae vibe in the verse topped off by vocalist Keith Pierce’s anguished, Henry Rollins meets someone who can actually sing, howl. To add a bit of spice, the fat chorus features the smoky female vocals of keyboard player Jess Collins that provides a welcome contrast to Pierce’s gruff tones…and continues to do so throughout the album.
Third song on and the third change of pace and style as “Ridin’” cruises on a kick ass, high energy, rocking stoner riff. Again Collins and Pierce’s voices blend perfectly and deliver a monster of a chorus. This is where Mellow Bravo show they can rock out with the best of them in no uncertain terms. There’s also something very appealing about hearing Collins singing “You know I want it all night”…doesn’t matter really what she wants, with a voice like that it’s just enough to know she wants it!!!
The band now give us time to mop the sweat from our brows as they drop the ballad “When I’m In Pain”. Don’t let that word ballad scare the shit out of you. This is a song rooted firmly in the blues and offers a distinct nod towards the world of 50’s doowop, albeit without the doowop bits!!! Again Collins shines on a big meaty chorus that would bring a smile to Janice Joplin’s lips. Pierce also shows that he is more than just a tortured throat as he delivers a performance dripping with raw emotion and attitude.
Just as you think you may be getting the measure of Mellow Bravo some gentle marimba (I think) kicks off the taught and funky crunch of “Lioness” that displays something of a pop like sensibility to the band’s sound without entirely sacrificing their muscle…the chorus is certainly brimful of fuzz and bluster. Here Pierce’s vocals come across like a mix of Chuck Ragan from Hot Water Music and Chuck Moseley from Faith No More, raw yet impassioned. The Faith No More comparison is further reinforced by Collins’ spectral keyboard flourishes.
So you want some country? Yep, Mellow Bravo can touch on that as the delicate strains of “Senorita” display some of the finest traits of the country ballad but thankfully steer clear of some of the worse clichés. This is more country by way of Lynyrd Skynyrd, particularly when the slide solo floats over some loose power chords. The chorus refrain of “I don’t need you, I want you” is simply beautiful, from the heart and delivered with real restraint by Pierce as a contrast to his usual bellow. By contrast, the subtly titled “Love Hammer” is a big assed beast of a song grooving on a fat riff and peppered with some more tasty slide to dip it into southern territory. This is a song tailor made for the live environment to kick a crowd into blind submission, particularly when Collins duets in a call-and-response style with the slide during the middle eight…this is the kind of thing Skynyrd would draw out to 20 minutes onstage in the 70’s!!!
From its title, “Shake Shake Shake” sounds as though it should be a dance floor filling rave up but is, in fact a tight little pop rocker with a chorus designed to head straight for the darkest recesses of the memory and stay there. Oddly enough the Hot Water Music comparisons here go a little further than merely Pierce’s vocals as this is the kind of tune that they excelled in writing in their latter days. Another song and yet another turn on a sixpence as “Prairie Dog” starts as a sweet little down home, twilight-on-the-porch acoustic country duet between Pierce and Collins before the band stop chewing straw and join in with something that’s as pure country as these guys are likely to get…not unlike The Supersuckers’ forays into the genre.
It seems the country road ends in a dead end so the band head further into pop meets hard rock on “Leave When You Please” which delves into Van Halen’s more commercial 80’s output, or maybe Foreigner’s harder leanings as it rolls along on some tasty Fender Rhodes piano and a chorus that is more than just radio friendly, it wants to marry the radio and produce beautiful babies with it!!! Big haired rock chicks will dig this song and muscle shirted pissed up meatheads will dig the big haired rock chicks digging this song!!! It seems the band have made a fleeting visit to 80’s LA and end the album taking the country road once more as “Big Block” is a folky acoustic country romp that threatens to break into a barn dancing stomp but stays true to its mellow heart to end the album on a beautiful and restrained note.
I will admit, on first listen I was hit with a big dose of “what the fuck” as I tried to make sense of the Mellow Bravo sound but repeated listens unfold the magnificent strength of the band’s song writing and reveal the sheer emotional content of the album. Yeah that’s right, emotion…don’t be scared of it as this is a very human album that runs the gamut of the human psyche from loss to celebration. It’s an unusual album for Small Stone, though their bio suggests that it will be released on the new Mad Oak imprint. It is, however, a slow burner that may confound on first listen, only to grow in strength with each listen thereafter and may actually prove to be the best album the label release this year.
- Ollie Stygall
Mellow Bravo’s self-titled debut is the latest release from Small Stone, and it’s a killer. Imagine the Black Crowes with Damaged era Black Flag Henry Rollins on vocals. Or maybe Lemmy’s punky cousin. Or Phil Lynott at an Exploited convention. Either way, it’s hard-riffing blues rock, and it’s awesome. Not a bad song on this disc.