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Tangible End

Sarah Borges might just write the next Great American Song.

By Randy Harward
Posted // July 6,2007 -

If Boston-based roots-rocker Sarah Borges ever gets sick of touring, she has a bright future in marketing. Told that City Weekly heard her album while hostage in a huge Interstate-215 traffic jam, she says, “It’s too bad we couldn’t force that situation upon everyone we want to hear the record, like make their car stop or stall so they have to listen. We could call it Engine Disabler!”

nn

That’s exactly the kind of captive-audience marketing idea the big media suits like to hear'but lucky for Borges, she and her band the Broken Singles don’t have to resort to such tactics. Rooted in roadhouse roots rock but mindful of everything from Kiss to The Replacements to Reigning Sound, and wet with Borges’ gorgeous Kelly Willis/Mary Weiss vocals, Diamonds in the Dark (Sugar Hill) is required listening you’ll demand to hear.

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Borges credits the stylistic diversity to her bandmates'guitarist Mike Castellana, drummer Robert Larry Dulaney and bassist Binky'saying the more they drive, the deeper and more common the list of influences gets. “We’ll listen to any kind of music,” says Borges. In addition to all of the above, Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles are into Loretta Lynn, Britney Spears (“Binky listed [her]. I’m not sure if it’s just ’cause he thinks she’s real hot.”) and the High Geniuses of American Music, NRBQ.

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NRBQ’s stamp is all over “The Day We Met,” the first single from Diamonds in the Dark. A bouncy number with an undeniable Telecaster twang, it’s the sort of unabashed silly love song that “Q”'especially guitarist Big Al Anderson'does so well. “The day we met should be a holiday,” Borges sings with a beguiling honky-tonk sweetness as the band crafts a jaunty, rolling backdrop to which that Tele twang and sweet voice twirl. It’s so clearly a page out of the NRBQ playbook, but Borges says the influence is new.

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“Mike is from New York and he’s seen NRBQ [innumerable] times,” she says, “and he started bringing all the NRBQ records into the van.” But while new, the effect is profound: “There ain’t nothin’ like driving down the American highway listenin’ to NRBQ’s Live at Yankee Stadium,” she enthuses, segueing to a story. “We met [Big Al] in Nashville, and I really wanted to talk to him. Mike went over and said hello, but [Al] had a huge posse of people fawning over him. He’s just a great American songwriter.”

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Borges is doing her damnedest to be one herself. Although she cut her teeth on punk rock while growing up an only child in Taunton, Mass., she caught the songwriting bug in her teens. She played the requisite solo-acoustic shows, then formed a band that, she says, in her bio, was mostly a means to hang out and drink beer. Now in her mid-20s, Borges is off to a strong start, having earned raves for the vivid roots-rock portraits on her debut, Silver City (Blue Corn), and now Diamonds.

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Besides “The Day We Met,” Diamonds in the Dark boasts the aching, last-call loneliness of “Belle of the Bar” and the life-in-sepia-tone “Modern Trick.” Each is semi-autobiographical, culled from actual life experience and fictionalized to taste, so only she knows what’s real. However, it’s a safe bet that Borges feels at times like that lonely barfly, still on her stool when the fun has been had, or the pedal-steel existentialist that treasures the past as much as the future.

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“Everyone always asks you if your songs are autobiographical,” she says. “Tell me about how you wrote this song. I don’t really realize the elements I take from my own life until much later on when I listen to the song. You don’t sit around and listen to your own records. Or, at least, I don’t. Later on, when you happen to hear it offhand, you realize that I was talking about a specific time in my life, and I can’t believe that I was able to describe it that well [laughs]. Because it makes you harken back to that time period.”

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Her blend of fiction and nonfiction is similar to songwriters John Hiatt, Bob Dylan, Todd Snider and Neko Case'aces, all, and now Borges’ peers. But it’s something she thinks about as much as influences. That is to say, she doesn’t, because she’s just happens to be a songwriter; the dividends (reflection, expression and the subsequent rewards) are all she needs.

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“I think part of the reason that people make art is there’s something that they’re trying to work out or work through,” she says. “I don’t know if you really know what that is until the end of it, but at least a song is a tangible, three-and-a-half-minute end. You’re a little bit further along at workin’ out where you’re at in your life in the three-and-a-half minutes than you were before you wrote it.”

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SARAH BORGES & THE BROKEN SINGLES with ROBERT EARL KEEN
nGallivan Center
n239 S. Main
nThursday, July 5
n7 p.m.
n596-5000

 
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