Published Jan 30, 2020Toronto roots veteran John Borra's last solo record came out in 2002, followed by three strong, if under-appreciated, albums with the band he led, Rattlesnake Choir. Blue Wine is out under his own name, but it is a strongly collaborative record, featuring local luminaries whose presence attests to the well-deserved respect Borra has earned over many decades as a key player on the T.O. scene.
The piano and organ work of Michael Boguski (Blue Rodeo) and Kevin Hearn plays a prominent role on many songs, while Blue Rodeo drummers past (Cleave Anderson) and present (Glenn Milchem) contribute. Dani Nash adds effective harmony vocals, drums on three cuts, and contributes one song, "Way Back Home." Poet Eva H.D. wrote lyrics to three tunes here, including an album highlight, "Machu Picchu," a song full of colourful lines like "tequila in your navel and six studs in your stable." This and another of her co-writes with Borra, "Hambre & Dolores," bring the great Texan country/folk songsmiths (Guy Clark, Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, etc.) to mind, and Borra's distinctive honky-tonk drawl proves an ideal vehicle.
He is not afraid to mix things up stylistically, as on a rootsy take of Velvet Underground classic "Foggy Notion," and the Spector-esque feel of "Tonight." Another highlight here is "Trace in the Wind," a tender yet spirited tribute to a late friend, actress Tracy Wright. A fine collection of songs from an artist meriting more attention. (Cousin Jeb)