TVD Live: Sarah Borges at Pearl Street Warehouse, 6/28

PHOTO: LIZ LINDER | Listeners literally place performers on pedestals, onto elevated stages and spotlights. So it was a little shocking to hear Sarah Borges say during her free-wheeling show at the Pearl Street Warehouse last week that she had spent some of the pandemic as a truck driver.

She couldn’t tour, and the clubs were all closed and she needed the dough. So why not? After all, she was pictured on the cover of her 2013 album, Radio Sweetheart, at the wheel of a T Bird. And being a songwriter who is always on the ball, she came up with a song about her part time duties, “She’s a Trucker.”

Whether songs come easily to Borges or not, they are certainly received easily. The Pearl Street show with a solid band led by her guitarist and producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, sounded great, had plenty of vigor, and with Borges’ droll delivery between songs, was thoroughly entertaining.

She’s got an enervating wail to her songs that draws you in, and a sassy style that makes everything seem to swing. Her guitar may be as much an accessory as her party dress, but why try soloing when you’ve got an ace like Roscoe in the house?

A member of the Blackhearts for Joan Jett, Ambel went on to co-found the Del-Lords before becoming an all around producer and guitarist for any number of artists from the Bottle Rockets to Emmylou Harris. He’s found a natural home playing with and for Borges though. And, dressed all white from bowler hat and coat to guitar and amp, looking like a tobacco tycoon, he played a few songs from his latest, You Asked for It – The Shut In Singles Series.

They included a suitably honky tonk version of The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women,” and a version of Nick Lowe’s “12 Step Program (to Quit You Babe),” throwing in an instrumental as well, the “Power Lounger Theme.”

Borges had some covers of her own, a duet version of Carl Smith’s “Loose Talk,” a hit for Buck Owens and Rose Maddox in 1960, and a swell run-through of Al Anderson’s NRBQ number “It Comes to Me Naturally” to cap the set.

But her own songwriting is getting sharper, too, even as she joshes that most songs are about meeting up, breaking up, or partying down. Lately things have been looking up for her, though, meeting up with a new boyfriend who also happens to be her bass player, Keith Voegele of the Bottle Rockets. In addition to being a good match for her, Voegele also makes for a fine rhythm section with hard-hitting drummer Kenny Soule. Borges is feeling so full of fortune, two new songs on the album are titled “Lucky Rocks” and “Lucky Day.” And like rolling snake eyes, she played them back to back in the set.

Part of the theme of her new album Together Alone was to reflect the isolation at the heart of the pandemic days—the parts on the album had to be recorded separately, for one thing. But there was hardly a feeling of loneliness or sorrow in the performance. Instead, a return to the rocking’ good time for which she is known. And no more truck driving jobs.

Opening the show, the Virginia band the Highballers were a good match for the headliners, right down to the leopard print of singer Victoria Patchen’s dress. Just about every song of the band led by Kendall Jackson, though, was about drinking, a subject from which Borges has moved on.

House on a Hill
She’s a Trucker
Wouldn’t Know You
Daniel Lee
12-Step Program (to Quit You Babe)
Loose Talk
13th Floor
Me and Your Ghost
Are You Still Taking Them Pills
Power Lounger Theme
Honky Tonk Women
Get as Gone Can Get
Wasting My Time
Tendency to Riot
Lucky Rocks
Lucky Day
Together Alone
It Comes to Me Naturally

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