Longtime Star-Telegram staff writer Bill Hanna is the biggest Brave Combo fan we know, having been a fan since seeing the band at Nick’s Uptown in Dallas in 1982. Brave Combo even played at Bill’s wedding to his wife, Laura. So we asked him to pick some essential songs. Which was tricky even for an obsessive.
“For a band as all-over-the map as Brave Combo, picking a few essential songs is almost a misnomer; it’s more like a sampler platter,” Hanna says. “If you’re one of those fans who sees them at polka festivals, you may only want to hear polkas. If you’ve seen them at a club, it may be one of their Latin tunes or something that sounds more like a rock or blues song. And if you’ve seen them at a [music] festival, it may be one of the audience-participation songs or one of their off-the wall covers like People Are Strange or the Jimi Hendrix Polka.
Ice Machine in the Desert: A favorite with longtime Brave Combo fans.
Do Something Different : A song that sums up the band’s mantra pretty succinctly. [Sample lyric: “Don’t believe anyone/Don’t read your mail/Make light of every word you hear/Turn off your radio. Quit your job/Do something different, disappear.”]
Laura: One of the great Latin songs from former band member Bubba Hernandez.
Must Be Santa: It may not be Mannheim Steamroller, but Brave Combo has carved out its own niche with Christmas music. This arrangement of the old Mitch Miller song was also recorded by Bob Dylan.
Denton Polka: You could pick among an infinite number of polkas, but I’ll go with the band’s ode to its hometown.
But recordings only tell part of the story of Brave Combo. It needs to be seen live. Here are several YouTube clips that try to capture what it’s like to see this group at a club or a festival.
Brave Combo plays a Twist at the Meyerson in Dallas. (From Do Something Different, Bart Weiss’ documentary in progress. The female accordion player is Ginny Mac, who has since left the band.)
An old video of Hosa Dyna back when Bubba Hernandez was in the band:
Nobody does the hokey pokey like Brave Combo. Nobody. (Another clip from Bart Weiss’ film, featuring a different contribution from Ginny Mac and a pretty astounding Little Jack Melody bass solo.)
Petit Pays (a cover of a Cesaria Evora song). “I only put this in here because this is an example of a left-field cover that Brave Combo sometimes pulls out of its hat,” Hanna says. “This is the only time I’ve heard them play this song, late one night in October 2012 [before a small crowd] at Keys Lounge in Fort Worth.”