CD Reviews ~
"Borra has done his share - now he should be a star."
John Borra, hard-rocking bass legend of Change of Heart and Groovy Religion fame, makes the transition to rootsy singer/guitarist undeniably convincing with his third solo album. The band -- which features fellow punks-turned-country Cleave Anderson on drums, Steve Koch on guitar and bassist/pianist Colleen Hodgson -- has developed into a well-oiled roots-rocking machine with the confidence that comes from regular gigs... Borra's songs are as impressive as the playing, using classic honky-tonk, rockabilly and country/folk sounds to tell sad (and sometimes horrific) tales of abuse, murder, revenge, lost love, fighting and getting tired of paying your dues. When it comes to the latter, Borra has surely done his share -- now he should be a star.
Borra proves on his third independent album, a collection of gutsy country rock originals, that he’s in for the longs haul. Borra serves up rough and ready, surprisingly catchy songs that suggest he has listened to a lot of 1970s Northern California saloon music and the Austin outlaws of the same period. “Creaky Old Town, the acoustic ballad “New Found Land”, the raucous “Buffalo Jump” and the rickety waltz “The Lights” are standouts among 13 fine pieces.
Johnny is once again at the top of his game. He continues to write classic, timeless melodies that are as listenable on the 20th or 30th hearing as they are the first time around…Borra's voice has that reedy, Appalachian quality that could let it slide seamlessly onto the O Brother soundtrack. And the Borra Band remain exactly as tight and as loose as they need to be, burnishing these musical gems just enough so that they start to glow.
.....All of the band's best features turn up right in the opener, a beauty of a song called "Buffalo Jump." Although it documents the historical big-game hunting that made the buffalo practically extinct on the frontier…the song carries a sweet, gently rolling melody that's winsome and captivating. Colleen's high-harmony backing vocals are stronger than ever in the mix, and provide a perfect counterpoint to John's reedy baritone. Steve's guitar solo is crisp and economical, segueing into John's melancholy harmonica, while Cleave's drumming moves everything forward at all times. Two-and-a-half minutes, and it's clear just how great this band can be.
His whisky-slack old-timey country blues are loose-limbed but sure footed; songs like “Must A Been Something”, “Creaky Old Town”, and “Take Me On Your Wind” warm you, charm you, keep you company at the bar. The casual, conversational tone of Borra’s third album, One Night At Seven In The Morning, can almost distract you from the deliberate choices that have been made. The material is frank, Americana informed by mid-60’s Dylan (“The Ballad of Jersey and Jake”) and Gram Parsons (“Irene”) and points beyond. Durability and directness are virtues. Hooks come in a range of flavours, from bittersweet to tangy, and they find their mark, testament to Borra’s maturing chops as a songwriter and musician.