Sarah Borges + Patrick Sweany
SARAH BORGES AND THE BROKEN SINGLES
Some folks make music because they want to -- others do it because they have no choice. Sarah Borges clearly falls into the latter category, the kind of person whose DNA would read like a musical chart if you mapped it out on paper.
Diamonds in the Dark, Borges second album -- and first for Sugar Hill -- spells that out in lush detail, with every plaintive vocal twist and every rollicking guitar turn offering up proof that the Massachusetts native knows her way around American musics roots (and has her own roots planted firmly in some mighty fertile soil). That terrain, like the landscape she and her band, The Broken Singles have traversed over the past few years, is plenty varied -- taking in scenes as diverse as the roadhouse melancholy of Belle of the Bar to the unashamedly guileless romanticism of The Day We Met.
Im usually more comfortable doing songs that are sad or a little pissed than totally happy ones, but I was in a better place writing [The Day We Met] and that just flowed immediately, she explains. When I first started writing, I was a little more self-conscious of certain things, certain topics, certain sounds. But you need to put that behind you if you want to really come up with something youre happy with.
After gathering the originals that form the core of Diamonds in the Dark, Borges reached far and wide for a smattering of equally intriguing covers. Those run the gamut from the aching False Eyelashes (a lovely tune usually associated with Dolly Parton) to the girl-group-styled romp Stop and Think It Over (composed by garage guru Greg Cartwright, whos best known as leader of the Memphis-based Reigning Sound).
The icing on the cake is Borges passionate reading of Come Back to Me -- an early classic from Los Angeles punk pioneers X, who she willingly identifies as probably my favorite band of all time. I was never really drawn to big guitars or big songs, but the first time I heard them, I thought this is just so badass Listeners are likely to experience similar thoughts when their synapses are tweaked by Mike Castellanas stiletto-sharp guitar work -- not to mention the hip-shaking rhythms conjured up when bassist Binky and drummer Robert Larry Dulaney hit their groove.
While Borges readily acknowledges devouring songs from recordings made decades before she was born -- Wanda Jackson, Bob Wills and vintage Merle Haggard have all been in heavy rotation on her stereo -- she has always offset those influences with the music of the here-and-now.
At the time I moved to Boston, in the mid-90s, indie rock was king, with bands like Throwing Muses and Morphine, recalls Borges, who grew up in the industrial town of Taunton, Mass. I really loved the punk rock ethic, bands going onstage even though they couldnt really play all that well. But even more than that, I liked the fact that I could go to see these bands on a Friday night and see them on the cover of Rolling Stone, but still see them in the coffee shop on Monday morning. You couldnt do that with the Beatles.
Borges, whod done plenty of musical theater in her teens, was thus inspired to take the step of crafting her own songs, which she performed as a solo artist before forming the first of several bands -- mostly for the purposes of drinking beer and hanging out. Gradually, she gravitated towards the musicians whod form the core of the Broken Singles, a combo thats been her collaborative family for the past four years.
Its obviously a band, with three other guys in it, but somebody has to drive the train, is how she explains the dynamic within the group. Im lucky enough that Ive met guys, none of whom has any interest in being a frontperson, but all of whom have really incredible talents at what they do.
That manifested itself on the Broken Singles 2005 debut Silver City, which was released on the Houston-based Blue Corn label. That disc gave a hint as to the quartets unique ability to meld the high-lonesome vibe of classic country with the hardscrabble attitude of old-school alt-rock, although Borges insists we were still feeling each other out in a lot of ways.
While Silver City garnered more than its fair share of praise in the press, including year-end top ten mentions in Los Angeles City Beat and the Knoxville Daily Times, Borges most steadfast supporters were intent on insuring she not be consigned to the critics darling pigeonhole -- after all, as Paste magazine trumpeted, this stuff screams for a wider audience on par with at least Lucinda, if not Gretchen Wilson.
Diamonds in the Dark -- produced, like its predecessor, by studio whiz Paul Q. Kolderie (whos helmed classics by Radiohead, the Pixies and Uncle Tupelo) -- figures to do just that. With an impossibly infectious hook secreted in each and every song, the disc has the rare ability to ensnare those drawn to both unvarnished floors and lace curtains, sweetly-spun pedal steel lines and bare-knuckled drums. Borges says that she didnt set out to create that balance, but that shes not all that surprised how it turned out.
No one owns one kind of record unless theyre ridiculously purist, she says. My references might be all across the board, but theyre all honest and people seem to respond to that -- and honesty is what really matters most to me.
Patrick Sweany likes the spaces in between.
On a given night (or on a given album) he'll swing through blues, folk, soul, bluegrass, maybe some classic 50s rock, or a punk speedball. He's a musical omnivore, devouring every popular music sound of the last 70 years, and mixing 'em all together seamlessly into his own stew. Yet, the one thing that most people notice about Patrick isn't his ability to copy - it's his authenticity. Like his heroes, folks like Bobby "Blue" Bland, Eddie Hinton, Doug Sahm, Ray Charles, Patrick somehow manages to blend all of these influences into something all his own.
It's no wonder that as a kid he immersed himself in his dad's extensive record collection: 60s folk, vintage country, soul, and, of course, blues. Patrick spent hours teaching himself to fingerpick along to Leadbelly, Lightnin' Hopkins, and other folk-blues giants.
In his late teens, Patrick began playing the clubs and coffeehouses around Kent, OH. He quickly gained a reputation for the intricate country blues style he was developing: part Piedmont picking, part Delta slide - with an equally impressive deep, smooth vocal style.
It wasn't long before Pat drew the attention of other notables like Jimmy Thackery who was impressed enough to bring Pat on the road, and Roy Book Binder, who, after hearing Patrick's self-released debut CD I Wanna Tell You, arranged his first appearance at Merlefest in 2002. Book Binder also turned his longtime friend Jorma Kaukonen on to Patrick's music, landing Pat a perennial slot at the legendary Fur Peace Ranch alongside guitarists like GE Smith, Marjorie Thompson, Bill Kirchen and Bob Margolin.
But Pat wouldn't stay in the acoustic world for long. His love of 50s era soul and rock fused with the adrenaline-soaked garage punk revival happening throughout the Rust Belt pushed Pat to form a band. Modeled after Hound Dog Taylor's House Rockers with a baritone guitar instead of a bass, Patrick's revved up music became accessible to a whole new legion of fans. His touring radius grew and before long, Pat found himself playing 150 shows per year all over the U.S.
His new CD Every Hour Is A Dollar Gone (June 2007) is the perfect snapshot of Patrick's evolution. Produced by longtime friend and collaborator Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, the songs hint at the blues-influenced rock of the 70s ("After Awhile," "Them Shoes"), soul and gospel ("From Orange To Pink," "Two Or Three"), and even ragtime ("Mom & Dad"), all the while shifting seamlessly in the spaces between these styles. And it's in these spaces that Patrick's huge voice and trademark style shine the most.
High Noon Saloon
701 E. Washington Ave
Madison, WI 53703
|Minimum Age: 21|
|Kid Friendly: No|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: No|