(Blue Corn Music)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Videos by American Songwriter
Fans of Americana 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.
That’s by design.
The process of creating Together Alone (Dave Mason first got dibs to the Alone Together title) was analogous to creating a jigsaw puzzle. Producer/friend/band member and veteran Americana auteur Eric “Roscoe” Ambel and Borges partnered to create a full band recording, generally without anyone being in the same room simultaneously. While that method is nothing new and has become almost standard operating procedure for many albums created during the pandemic and even before, Borges’ often rough and rowdy catalog benefited from the live interaction between her and a taut band. This was radically different, especially since she was singing her vocals into a phone then transferring those files to Ambel who layered instruments atop them from a variety of sources.
Ultimately, understanding how this particular sausage was made shouldn’t affect its quality, and largely that’s the case. 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 thumping “Wouldn’t Know You,” about watching an old friend (perhaps a band member?) spiral downhill due to a diet of pills and alcohol. Borges’ voice with its slight country twang/sneer mixed with a Chrissie Hynde infused swagger and her tough/tender attack remains powerful and punchy.
She gets soulful on “Rock and Roll Hour” proclaiming a dedication to her profession, especially live, with The things we do for love/Playing a song, my ears still ring/I will love it to my dying day. Similar sentiments of missing things we once took for granted due to the pandemic waft through these selections.
On “Pretty Christine” Borges describes the titular character intent on leaving her lover for a better life as she moves from her hometown. The mid-tempo strummy rocker captures that hopeful feeling with a hooky chorus that entices you back for repeated spins. And any artist that glorifies NRBQ, the Mavericks, and the Yayhoos in song as she does on the gutsy “You Got Me on the Boat” (about being invited to the Outlaw Country cruise, her last live gig before everything shut down) clearly has their heart in the right place.
Perhaps knowing the Frankenstein-styled process of creating these songs lends a perceived stiffness to the performances separating them from the live-wire synergy felt in some of Borges’ other releases.
But that shouldn’t prevent anyone from diving into this compact (32 minute) and compelling set, reinforcing why Sarah Borges remains a potent force in contemporary Americana, with or without her Broken Singles’ support.
Photo courtesy Conqueroo