Blue Corn Music
Apart from the usually bold, strong effort from singer-songwriter Sarah Borges, Together Alone may be well be the definitive, or least the best explained example of recording resourcefulness during the pandemic. Producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel deserves most of the credit and explains his process at length in the liners. Producers take note. Here is the shortened version. One by one, Borges would send along her home-recorded guitar and vocal demos — with Sarah singing into her iPhone, and utilizing her clothes closet as a vocal isolation booth — to Ambel’s home recording setup. He’d listen carefully to the rudimentary tracks, and then sort out who might play what, where, when, and how, considering those who had a home recording setup only. Among those ready, willing, and able was Keith Voegele, residing in Springfield, Illinois. Another was Keith Christopher, Ambel’s longtime Yayhoos band mate currently playing bass with Lynyrd Skynyrd and living in upstate New York. A talented trio of drummers scattered from New York to Nashville also sent in dispatches. Rob Arthur from Nashville contributed keyboards on select tracks. Amble added vocals and instruments himself as needed. To ensure a rapport between far-flung musicians that felt organic, Ambel worked on an album sequence and tackled each song one at a time. If you’re into the minute details, reference the liners.
Kicking off with “Wasting My Time,” something that the ever-active Borges loathes to do, was her way of expressing how she and most of us felt during the last year. “It’s been a while now since I’ve seen my friends / Don’t know when I’m gonna see ’em again. Without them around / It’s harder to pretend that I know where I’m going.” The thematic opposite of this appears later in the sequence, “You Got Me on the Boat,” a boisterous nod to good times had by all on the Outlaw Country Cruise, days before the shutdown.
The driving, slightly punkish “Lucky Day” has Borges backed by a trio of guitarist Ambel, her boyfriend bassist Voegele, and drummer John Perrin and could easily pass as one of the hard rockers from any of her pre-pandemic recordings. Voegle sings with her on “Wouldn’t Know You,” one he co-wrote with Borges and Ambel, the latter of whom delivers searing and crunching guitar in this rave-up. “Something To Do” and “She’s Trucker,” unlike the others, use primarily acoustic instruments. The former is contemplative while the latter is anthemic. Sandwiched in between is “Rock and Roll Hour,” imbued by Arthur’s clavinet and serving as a definitive example of her blazing, take-no-prisoners sassy, direct rocking style. Borges has stayed sober for six years now but continues to think about taking risks from time to time as in “13th Floor” or in the aforementioned “Something To Do” when calling a random number on a barroom wall seemed like a good idea.
“Pretty Christine” rocks with some Ambel’s best guitar work while the title track, about dividing distances on the road speaks to separation, giving the album a symmetric bookend close thematically. Borges speaks her mind, soaring over Ambel’s punchy power chords, “It’s the little things I’m missing / Now that they’re gone… Lines across faces, and photos from places / Our shadows growing long.”
Borges has always been easy to root for with her dynamic package of honesty, energy, and firm embrace of celebratory rock n’ roll. Her ability to instantly relate to her audience through relatable subject matter is another ingredient of her success. Despite the pandemic and its recording challenges, Borges doesn’t flinch. Her endearing qualities are the core of every tune on this hard-hitting effort.
- Jim Hynes