Review: Sarah Borges Creates the Appropriate Title with Technology and Talent
(Blue corn music)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Fans of American singer/songwriter/rocker Sarah Borges will quickly notice the absence of her Broken Singles backing unit anywhere in the credits of her first new album since 2018.
It is by design.
The creative process together alone (Dave Mason first got dibs at alone together title) was analogous to creating a puzzle. Producer/friend/bandmate and veteran Americana songwriter Eric “Roscoe” Ambel and Borges teamed up to create a full recording of the band, usually without anyone being in the same room simultaneously. While this method is nothing new and has become near standard operating procedure for many albums created during the pandemic and even before, Borges’ often rough and rowdy catalog has benefited from the live interaction between her and a tense group. It was drastically different, especially since she was singing her vocals into a phone and then transferring those files to Ambel who was layering instruments from various sources.
Ultimately, understanding how this particular sausage was made shouldn’t affect its quality, and it largely does. The ten tunes range from bittersweet ballads such as the title track which describes the difficulty of being away from a loved one to the resounding “Wouldn’t Know You”, about watching an old friend (perhaps a band member?) spiraling down from a diet of pills and booze. Borges’ vocals with his slight country/sneer accent mixed with a Chrissie Hynde-infused swagger and hard/soft attack remain powerful and punchy.
She gets emotional on “Rock and Roll Hour” proclaiming a dedication to her profession, especially live, with The things we do for love/Play a song, my ears are still ringing/I’ll love her ’til the day I die. Similar feelings of missing things we once took for granted due to the pandemic float through these selections.
On “Pretty Christine”, Borges portrays the titular character determined to leave her lover for a better life as she leaves her hometown. The strummy mid-tempo rocker captures that sense of hope with a catchy chorus that keeps you coming back for repeat spins. And any artist who glorifies NRBQ, the Mavericks and the Yayhoos in song like she does on the brave “You Got Me on the Boat” (about being invited to the Outlaw Country Cruise, her last live concert before everything never stops) clearly has their hearts in the right place.
Perhaps knowing the Frankenstein-like process of creating these songs lends a perceived stiffness to the performances that separates them from the live synergy felt in some of Borges’ other releases.
But that shouldn’t stop anyone from diving into this compact (32-minute) and compelling set, reinforcing why Sarah Borges remains a powerful force in contemporary America, with or without the backing of her Broken Singles.
Photo courtesy Conqueroo