The Suburbanite
  • On the Beat: The roots-rock Americana approach of Yankee Bravo

  • When Benjamin Payne, who wrote and sings the song, first played it for the band’s mandolin player Robert Austin, Austin remarked, “Man, you got a mouthful of Dylan on you.”

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  • My favorite song on the local band Yankee Bravo’s debut EP opens with rolling, stream-of-consciousness lyrics that are reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
    “Uptown hillbilly from the country in the city driving through New Philly listening to the rockabilly station...” is how it begins.
    When Benjamin Payne, who wrote and sings the song, first played it for the band’s mandolin player Robert Austin, Austin remarked, “Man, you got a mouthful of Dylan on you.”
    The strong six-song release, titled “Tucker’s Moon” and available next week on iTunes, showcases Yankee Bravo’s warm, earthy, melodic sound. “I definitely would put us in the category of roots-rock Americana — with a folk heartbeat,” said Payne.
    Yankee Bravo will perform at the Akron Civic Theatre tonight as part of Ryan Humbert’s fourth annual holiday show. The trio also will appear Jan. 4 at the Buzzbin-sponsored Froth Fest in downtown Canton.
    An active singer-songwriter from 2001 through 2007, Payne released a pair of solid solo albums, “Gallery of Eden” and “Faith and Fury,” and played out a bunch. He opened shows for Richie Havens and Arlo Guthrie at Lock 3 in downtown Akron, and played the main stage before Jars of Clay at the Alive Festival at Clay’s Park Resort.
    In 2006, Payne was hired as full-time worship leader at First Christian Church, and released an album of worship music in 2008. “Thankfully the church was very supportive,” he said. Since 2009, he has been director of worship ministries at First Friends Church.
    Yankee Bravo was born out of his friendship with Paul Seymour, who played guitar in Payne’s solo band. “We were playing more modern rock, but we discovered a mutual interest in roots music,” Payne recalled.
    “I’d been dreaming of a roots-rock/Americana type project and that common interest between Paul and I seemed like a natural fit. I really didn’t want to be ‘the guy’ anymore. I wanted us to have a band together.”
    So they started Yankee Bravo, a name that is military slang for an underclassman, “kind of a backhanded term,” Payne said.
    After recruiting Austin, who plays mandolin, acoustic guitar and sings, they debuted at downtown Canton’s Anderson Creative art gallery in February 2011. “It was a really great sort of coming-out party,” Payne said. “It was fun right out of the box.” In May 2011, the band performed at The Auricle and Eric Monroe of Shadow Studios videotaped the show, which is available as a DVD at Bravo shows.
    Brandon Covey, who plays upright bass, joined Yankee Bravo later last year. “He was the piece we’d been missing,” Payne said. Sadly, co-founder Seymour had to leave the band this year after he took a job in Des Moines, Iowa. (He is prominent on the new EP.)
    Page 2 of 2 - “We took a breather to retool,” Payne said. “There was a spot to fill, then we decided among the three of us to keep it a trio.”
    Yankee Bravo has about 14 original songs in its repertoire, along with an eclectic group of cover tunes by Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Radiohead and others.
    A longtime solo artist, Payne is enjoying being part of a trio. “There’s a lot of energy to doing it by yourself, but it takes a toll after a while,” he said. “I’ve been looking for that band vibe for a while. Now I’ve got it and it’s great.”

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