Cousin Jeb Records
Quality Barroom, Foot Stompin’ Punk Infused Canadian Alt. Country.
John Borra’s Canadian version of alt-country owes a nod to punk rock and that’s a good thing.
It’s interesting to me, as someone who started out playing bass in punk rock bands before gravitating to fronting their own material with acoustic guitar in a folk-rock format (with a hint of country), how many others have gone that same route? (John Borra played in punk bands in the 1980’s, and has played bass in multiple bands, now fronting an Alt-Country band. Apparently he also sidelines as an audio engineer when he’s not playing music, engineering and producing this album himself. Surprisingly, these are all things which I’ve also done!
If I find out that he also writes music reviews for online blogs then our lives are indeed mysteriously mirroring one another for sure!)
Is there a sense of familiarity between punk and country that ties them intrinsically together?
Three chords and the truth apply equally, as does a sense of honesty and simple rawness, but there must be something more for artists as far apart as Florida, Toronto, New Zealand, and Italy to come to similar musical conclusions.
Whatever it is, John Borra seems to have found his way from punk rocker to Alt-Country frontman and is doing an admirable job of making it work.
Blue Wine, his first solo album since 2002, is equal parts poetic Honky Tonk and revved up Punkish barn burners. Backed by a band of musicians more than capable of pulling off whatever Borra throws at them, he sings his way through eleven well written songs that show off his distinctive voice to perfection.
Borra’s lyrics sometimes leave a bit to be desired—his rhyming schemes would never be mistaken for Dylan’s or Cohen’s— but he makes up for it with uncompromising grit and a strong sense of melody. And complete props to the unexpected cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Foggy Notion.” Borra’s version keeps the fun urgency of the original and turns it on its head with a bit of barroom stomping and tasty piano. Speaking of that piano, eschewing lead guitar for the standout lead piano of Mike Boguski throughout this album was a wise and crucial decision too, as Boguski deliciously hammers and pounds his way through these tunes as if he owns them, bringing to mind John Cale’s frenzied piano on many of the tunes by the aforementioned Velvets.
“Americana” bands take note: It doesn’t always have to be pedal steel, mandolin, or chicken-pickin’ to set the right mood!
Other standout tracks on Blue Wine are “The Wars,” “Machu Picchu,” and the barroom romance of “Hambre and Dolores” which were all co-written with poet Eva H.D.
“Secret Time” is a sweet and fulfilling album closer, but “Way Back Home,” a duet with Dani Nash, who also wrote this fun, swinging tune, is the track you’ll go back to again and again.
Courtesy Guest Reviewer, The Legendary Roy Peak
Released February 13th 2020