Archive for the Sarah Borges Category

Top 20 of 2009: 18-16

Posted in Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Madison Violet, Sarah Borges, Top 20 of 2009 on December 18, 2009 by AmericanaPulse
#18 – No Fool for Trying by Madison Violet

Madison Violet was one of my favorite new discoveries of 2009. I was completely unaware of the duo from Canada when their No Fool for Trying album showed up on Reviewshine’s website (another one of my favorite things of 2009). It was one of the first albums I received and reviewed through Reviewshine, and I’m glad I took the time to give this one a listen… it’s easily one of my favorite folk records of the year. In fact, they were recently named Vocal Group of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.

This album is full of lush harmonies and beautifully heartbreaking lyrics that create the perfect album to listen to during a relaxing evening at home. This is the third album for Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIssac as Madison Violet, and the first to draw so heavily from acoustic folk and bluegrass influences. It’s a direction I hope they continue to follow.

Madison Violet: No Fool for Trying (Buy Album)

#17 – Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit by Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

I noticed this album back when it was first released in February, but I didn’t truly come to appreciate it until I went back to listen to it again before the Americana Honors and Awards. I’ve said here several times that Jason was my favorite member of The Drive-By Truckers during his time with the group. Of course, when he was with the Truckers, only two or three of his songs would make each album. Now that he’s on his own with two solo albums under his belt, Jason has really had the chance to grow and expand his sound.

This album finds Jason building on the southern rock sound that has been at the core of most of his previous work and adding a bit of country soul. The guiding hand of Lynyrd Skynyrd is still present, but there’s something extra here that elevates this album over his previous effort Sirens of the Ditch. Jason’s backing players, The 400 Unit provide a fine framework for his lyrics with keys present nearly throughout the album and drums mixed way up in the front. A promising second effort for this amazingly gifted songwriter.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit: The Blue (Buy Album)

#16 – The Stars Are Out by Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles

I was very open on this site about my process of growing to like this album. I started with excitement, moved on to trepidation, experienced some slight disappointment, and finally took a step back and learned to enjoy it. I had read some early reviews and and heard one overly polished track before the album was released. I let that color my expectations and taint my initial perception of the record. I shouldn’t have.

Once I took the time to regroup and listen to the album again with fresh ears, however, I was able to appreciate the album for what it is. Some of the country flavors from her previous work has been replaced in spots by a harder rock edge and a Joan Jett like energy on several tracks. That edge is present on several tracks including the Borges originals “Do it for Free” and “I’ll Show You How.” It also shows up on her cover of Any Trouble’s 1980’s Brit rock tune “Yesterday’s Love.”
Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles: Yesterday’s Love (Buy Album)

Americana Music Awards Nominees ’09: New & Emerging Artist

Posted in Americana Music Awards 09, Band of Heathens, Belleville Outfit, Justin Townes Earle, Sarah Borges on August 21, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Well… It’s that time of year again.

The 2009 Americana Music Association’s Awards and Honors Show will be held September 17 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The event is part of the Americana Music Festival and Conference taking place September 16tn – 19th in Nashville.

As I did last year… I’ll be taking a look at most of the awards categories and trying to handicap the field. We start today with the nominees for “Best New & Emerging Artist.”

First up is a songwriting collective from Austin, TX called The Band of Heathens. The Heathens got their start a few years back when songwriters Colin Brooks, Gordy Quist, and Ed Jurdi were all holding down regular weekly slots at Momo’s Club in Austin. Eventually, the three solo acts started playing together along with a rhythm section of John Chipman on drums and Seth Whitney on bass. As the story goes… a local music writer referred to the collective as “That Band of Heathens” and a legend was born.

The band’s self-titled studio album was released last year and instantly started climbing the Americana Album Airplay charts. In fact, it became just the second self released album to hit the top of that chart (Hayes Carll’s Little Rock). Produced by Austin luminary Ray Wylie Hubbard and featuring appearances by Hubbard, Patty Griffin, Gurf Morlix, and the late Stephen Bruton… their debut effort features country rock grooves to boost their solid songwriting. “Jackson Station” is as good as anything else I heard over the past year.

Band of Heathens: Jackson Station (Buy Album)

The second nominee is another young group based out of the Americana Mecca that is Austin, TX. Though they call Austin their home now, the roots of The Belleville Outfit actually lie in South Carolina where band members Marshall Hood, Rob Teter, and Jeff Brown were in a band called The DesChamps band during their high school years. The three reconnected in Austin a few years later and started recruiting players for a gig they booked at Merlefest. Enter Jonathan Konya and Connor Forsyth from New Orleans and Phoebe Hunt from Austin to complete the sextet.

The Belleville Outfit’s debut album Wanderin’ came out in February of 2008 with a follow up called Time to Stand coming out earlier this year in May. Both albums draw from a wide range of influences to create a sound that is based in Western Swing but also swings out to cover styles as diverse as jazz, traditional folk, cajun zydeco, and just about anything else you’ve ever wrapped your ears around. Here’s the title track from their debut album.

The Belleville Outfit: Wandrin’ (Buy Album)

For our third nominee, we leave Texas and head to Boston for Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles. Sarah is probably my favorite artist among the nominees and someone who I’ve followed for a few years now. She first got on stage as an actress and majored in musical theatre at Emerson College, a small private school in Boston. Eventually, Sarah formed a band and was signed to the Blue Corn Music label after a successful showcase at the SXSW festival.

Sarah has released three albums since then… 2005’s Silver City, 2007’s Diamonds in the Dark, and 2009’s The Stars are Out… the latter two for Sugar Hill. At it’s core, her music houses a strong rock and roll spirit with obvious flourishes of country soul mixed in for good measure. Her latest album was a little less country and a little more rock and roll. It’s a bit of a new direction for a talented performer and songwriter who figures to be around for a while. It’s nice to see her finally get some attention from the Americana voters.

Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles: Me and Your Ghost (Buy Album)

Which brings me to the final nominee this year and the only returning nominee in this category. How someone can be nominated for “Best New Artist” two years in a row… I’ll never know. Here’s part what I wrote about Justin Townes Earle last year.

“Justin Townes Earle is the son of Steve Earle and is named for Townes Van Zandt. That’s not too much to live up to is it? Justin understandably developed a love for music and was playing in a couple of bands in Nashville by the time he was a teenager. He also spent some time playing in his father’s touring band, The Dukes, but was kicked out of the group due a growing dependence on alcohol and drugs… …[Now] clean and sober, Justin self-released the EP Yuma in 2007. His debut album The Good Life followed in 2008.”

Earle returned in March of this year with Midnight at the Movies, another strong effort that, once again, showcases his skills as a songwriter (even if my favorite song on the album is a Replacements cover), and proves that he can stand on his own outside the shadows of his namesake and famous father. His recent inclusion on the Big Surprise Tour with The Old Crow Medicine Show has only broadened his exposure and helped solidify his status as an artist to watch in the future.
Justin Townes Earle: Can’t Hardly Wait (Buy Album)
So those are the nominees for “Best New & Emerging Artist.” I put a poll up yesterday for you to vote on your favorite. We’ll find out the real winner September 17th.
As for how I would handicap this year’s race… I think JTE will be tough to beat. In addition to his nomination here, he’s also up for “Artist of the Year” and “Album of the Year.” My vote (if I had one) would probably go to Sarah Borges because she’s been a favorite of mine for some time, but her latest album is probably the least “Americana” of her catalogue. The Belleville Outfit have the most unique sound and are probably the most innovative of the group. The Band of Heathens had the best “debut” album during the nominating period and would probably be a shoo in if not for the word “Emerging” in the name of the award.
My Vote (If I had one): Sarah Borges
My Prediction: Justin Townes Earle

Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles: The Stars are Out

Posted in Sarah Borges on February 26, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I’m a little late to the party with this one considering The Gobbler’s Knob posted an excellent review of the album earlier this week. However, I felt I owed it to Sarah to post my thoughts on this album after the less-than-favorable review I gave to the first track I heard a few weeks ago.

Maybe this is just something that I do, but have you ever gone into listening to an album with a preconceived notion of what it’s going to sound like? Either you expect it to be something so phenomenal that it can’t possibly live up to your expectations, or you expect to be disappointed and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Either way, there’s no way you can enjoy an album when you approach things this way.

Unfortunately, that’s the way I first approached Sarah’s new album, The Stars Are Out. I had heard the song “No One Will Ever Love You,” and found it to be a little too shiny for my tastes. When I was sent the full album for review, I let my preconceptions from that one song color my view of the whole record.

When I heard the first song, “Do it For Free” (watch the video over at The Gobbler’s Knob), I didn’t hear the obvious Joan Jett influence. I only heard something different. The same thing happened with Smokey Robinson’s “Being with You.” I couldn’t enjoy the R&B flavors that make the song great because I was expecting to hear something else.

I put the album on the shelf for a few weeks with the intention of coming back to it fresh at a later date. I’m glad I did.

With the expectations stripped away, I was able to hear the album the way I should have the first time. Yes… there may be some polish in places, but this is still a very raw album in others. It just seems that some of the country elements have been replaced by all out rock and roll. “I’ll Show You How” has a barroom swagger and fire that will burn your honky-tonk juke joint to the ground. “It Comes to Me Naturally” hearkens back to the earliest days of rock. That’s not hard to believe considering the song was originally recorded by NRBQ.

Bottom line. I enjoy this album quite a bit, and have been unable to stop listening to it for the better part of this week. It is a raw but refined record and is a fine addition to Sarah’s already quality catalogue. She’s always had a bit of a Rock and Roll soul hiding under her honky-tonk heart. Here, she lets it all out.

The Stars are Out by Sarah Borges and The Broken Singles is out March 24th from Sugar Hill Records.

Sarah Borges: Being with You (Buy Album)
Sarah Borges: I’ll Show You How (Buy Album)

Sarah Borges

Posted in Sarah Borges on January 22, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Earlier this week, I was inspired by a post over at songs:illinois to go back and spend some time with the music of Boston based songstress Sarah Borges. Sarah’s new CD with her band The Broken Singles is due out March 24th from Sugar Hill Records, and the aforementioned post has a track from the new album called “No One Will Ever Love You.”

Sarah Borges first came to my attention after the release of her 2007 album Diamonds in the Dark. I was drawn immediately to her boozey, bluesy brand of honky-tonk rock and the reckless energy that was conveyed on most of the tracks. The lead single “The Day We Met” (included in the songs:illinois post… go listen) became part of my soundtrack for 2007 and was included on the year end mix CD that my wife and I made that year. It is pure roots-rock bliss.

The album has plenty of rough edges, but it isn’t afraid to hide them. Instead, they are worn proudly like a badge of honor. Guitars crunch and crash on the rocking “Diabolito” and “Lonely Town of Love.” Steel guitars cry out on honky-tonkers “Lord Only Knows” and “False Eyelashes.” Two of the more subdued tracks on the album are covers. One from Tom Waits (“Blind Love”) and the other, oddly enough from L.A. punk pioneers X (“Come Back to Me”). It all blends together into an album that is very varied in its sounds and influences, but is held together nicely by Sarah, her band, and the energy with witch they play.

I found more of the same on her 2005 debut album Silver City. Barroom rock, country laments, rockabilly riots… they’re all here. Most of the songs are Borges originals, but she skillfully covers Tommy Dorsey and The Teenage Fanclub, and makes both feel as though they belong here on a country-rock album. How many other artists do you know that can cover Tommy Dorsey and X in the span of just two albums?

That brings me to her third album The Stars are Out due in March. The title track is all I’ve heard so far (EDIT: Not the title track… one called “No One Will Ever Love You”)… so this may be premature… but I don’t hear any of the fire that was present through so much of the first two albums. I hear pristine and polish. It’s not bad song… it just doesn’t sit right with me just yet.

I’m still very anxious to hear the full release, and I will try to get back with a final verdict once I have. Hopefully the rest of the disc will turn me around. Sarah’s never disappointed me before.

While we’re waiting for the new one… here’s a taste of those first two discs that I was talking about.

First is “Same Old 45” from Silver City. This one is a foot stomping retelling of the 70’s hit “Brandy” (She’s a fine girl) fueled by a looping bass drum and crunching guitars. Next is “Lord Only Knows” from Diamonds in the Dark. This one leans more on a country foundation with steel guitar and high amounts of twang. These two songs showcase the two extremes of Sarah’s sound and prove just how well she can pull off both styles.

Sarah Borges: Same Old 45 (Buy Album)
Sarah Borges: Lord Only Knows (Buy Album)