Adelaide Celtic Folk Rock band The BordererS have been around the Adelaide music scene for some time and have an impressive catalogue of CD’s to their name. This release is their first double album, although it is really two distinctly different CDs released in one package.
The first disk “Tales of Love and Loss” has its roots in the grief Alex and Jim have for the loss of their teenage son Rowan, who sadly took his own life, and also in the loss of Jim’s mother, Betty. Understandably, the songs on this CD have an unifying theme and it’s a somewhat more sober CD than the second disk, “Rise Up!” which is a more traditional collection of songs originating from the daily experiences life serves up.
The band has enjoyed reasonable international success, particularly by Adelaide standards, yet they seem to defy trends and are difficult to pigeon-hole. A bit folk, a bit pop, a bit traditional, a bit Peter Paul and Mary, they just seem to write nice songs that could be sung in the back yard, the front bar, or on the world stage.
TALES OF LOVE & LOSS
This CD opens with a cover of the classic “You’re My World”, one of three covers on this disk, the others being “Changing Fortunes” and the traditional “Danny Boy”. The other seven songs are BordererS originals which have mostly been unearthed from previously recorded but unused material. A couple of songs seem to have been written specifically for this release. Whatever the origin, these 10 songs all seem to belong and are appropriate to the theme.
Jim Paterson steps up to the microphone on two songs. “Jesus by my Side” is a rollicking old-time, up-tempo, swing-blues song that you just have to clap along to. “The Meaning of Life” which is a hokey knee-slapping banjo tune which evolves into a southern church soul tune, infused with a touch of zydeco. Jim’s vocal contributions seem to have a bit of cheek to them and are sung with a mischievous grin.
The balance of the album is sung by Alex, except for the simple mood instrumental “Rowan’s Theme“, which has no lyrics. Sometimes there are no words to express how you feel.
Alex has a sweet voice which she uses to great effect on “One in a Million”, expressing the emotions and joy of a mother rejoicing in the birth of her son. She then plays the role of the daughter singing to her father of her enduring love on the uplifting ballad “My Fathers Love“. The generations are bridged by the song of a woman.
As much as this disk conveys messages and meaning borne from grief and loss, there is no pervasive cloud of darkness and sorrow here. The songs are still mostly upbeat, and if you were not aware of the context you might not make the link between these tunes and the loss of kin. It’s a fine line for an artist to tread, and The BordererS have got it just about right.
This disk serves up a collection of songs that lack the unifying theme of “Tales of Love and Loss“, but still sit well together as an album. Apart from the two traditional songs “Tell Me Ma/Africa” and “Ye Canny shove yer Granny Aff the Bus” these are all original BorderS tunes.
“Tell Me Ma/Africa” is a freewheeling foot-tapper that fuses reggae, Celtic folk and Mbube around a traditional British song. As strange as it sounds, it actually works and you find yourself grooving along without knowing it. “Ye Canny Shove yer Granny Aff the Bus” is also a traditional number, sung to the tune of “She’ll be coming round the Mountain“. For this reviewer the Dixieland jazz style conjured up images of Keith Conlon drumming with his band on the back of a Christmas Pageant float – but don’t let that put you off! It’s all done with a large grin. And it’s a lot of fun.
“I’m a Work in Progress” and the title track “Rise Up!” are political statements, with the former referencing the Credence organization, and the latter taking up the cause of the Get Up! movement. (Wo)Man is a political animal, so artists searching their life experiences for material are going to touch on the subject of politics sooner or later. I’ve never been a fan of “shove it down your throat” political message bands, but two “message” songs in twenty is a fair enough ratio in my book.
“St. Antonin” a song about a town in France that has a bit of Gypsy feel, with the occasional nod to the Parisienne accordion, and a healthy dose of 80’s ska out of London. This is another unconventional song that seems to fit in because it’s fun.
There are a couple of songs that really do depart from mainstream BordererS material. “Gimme That Rhythm” is sung by Jim and is in the style of rockabilly. Whilst it rocks along and serves up a pretty authentic guitar solo, this genre does not really play to The BordererS strengths. The other variation is “Finding Your Own Way“, which stands unique in this collection as a piano ballad that could just as easily have been sung by Cold Chisel or Bruce Springsteen.
Overall the BordererS just seem to be having fun putting down tracks. “Temptation” is a live recording from the Woodford Festival where it is clear that the BordererS rock-out live. “Sober” is a classic Irish jig that belongs in the front bar, and “OI, OI, OI We’re Going Down the Pub” is a live recording of an up tempo drinking song, replete with a Clarence Clemens style sax solo and a chorus even the drunkest blarney stone kisser could wrap their lips around.
Emerging from the depths of sorrow “The BordererS” have put together a double album that says life is fun, let’s get on with it.