Album review: Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles: Diamonds in the Dark
Sugar Hill Records, 2007
Time Out New York, June 7–13, 2007
Five stars (out of five)
Had Boston-based singer Sarah Borges come along in the mid-1960s, she surely would have been roped into the Capitol stable alongside like-minded mavericks such as Wanda Jackson, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. Ten years later, she might have been part of the Stiff cartel; in the ’80s, Slash and Twin/Tone would have fought over her. That Borges’s second album, Diamonds in the Dark, has just been issued by Sugar Hill only furthers the argument that roots music is the new punk.
Blessed with brassy pipes and charisma aplenty, Borges is irresistible in “The Day We Met,” a jangly ode to new love that could easily be one of the summer’s top singles. But she’s just as capable of selling a line like “I’m always the girl that they dance with / But I’m never the one that they want to take home,” the tear-soaked refrain in “Belle of the Bar.” Borges surrounds her catchy original tunes with shrewdly chosen covers associated with Dolly Parton (“False Eyelashes”), X (“Come Back to Me”) and George Cartwright (“Stop and Think It Over”).
Guitarist Mike Castellana provides spit-shined twang and broken-hearted steel, while bassist Binky and drummer Rob Dulaney lay down whip-crack beats and lazy shuffles. Producer Paul Q. Kolderie, a veteran of sessions with the Pixies, Radiohead and Uncle Tupelo, adds atmospheric touches here and there but mostly adheres to a useful old maxim: Less is more.
When I first announced some months ago—optimistically, go figure—that I intended to start archiving some of my older pieces here with the collective tag My Back Pages, what I had in mind was a specific Anthony Braxton concert review from last year that appeared in The Wire. Obviously that effort got derailed, though the notion is still very much alive. But when I came upon this choice old CD review this evening on the Time Out New York website, where older pieces disappear without a trace all too often, thanks to multiple migrations, I decided to grab it right away and stick it here for safe keeping.
So now, when I least expected it, My Back Pages has become a real thing, which is nice. Also, I reviewed a show by Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles at Joe's Pub shortly after this CD review ran; it appeared both on this blog and on Time Out's defunct music blog, The Volume, where you can still find it here. Borges is currently raising funds to do a solo album, which I did not know until just this very minute, and just a little over a year ago released a live set, Live Singles, on the piquantly named label Suck a Bag of Discs. I just bought it on iTunes, and you can, too. Or, at the very least, you can give it a listen on Spotify.