Live Review: Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles featuring Eric “Roscoe” Ambel @ Jammin’ Java – 12/1/21

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Sarah Borges performs at Jammin’ Java on Dec. 1, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Sarah and her band, the Broken Singles, rolled into town recently, hitting the Jammin Java stage with Eric “Roscoe” Ambel for another of her typically rockin’ and quip-laden performances. Having seen Sarah previously, I was prepared for a seriously fun rock and roll show. This one, the first in our area since 2020, featured plenty of new additions to the setlist as she road tested a few new songs from her forthcoming release, Together Alone.

On Dec. 1, Sarah took the stage after Meaghan Farrell’s delightful opening set, strapping on her custom Stonetree guitar with its pink chord, and launched into one of her classics, “Daniel Lee.” The 90-minute set included songs from her last album, Love’s Middle Name, (“House on a Hill” and “Lucky Rocks”), some new tunes (“She’s a Trucker,” and “Wasting My Time”), and a few Del Lords covers (“Shame on You” and “Heaven”). For me the highlight of the set was a cover of Jimbo Mathus’ (Squirrel Nut Zippers), “Take a Right at the Red Light,” a slow burner of a song that Sarah’s emotional delivery imbues with subtle danger.

Stream Love’s Middle Name by Sarah Borges on Spotify:

For those unfamiliar, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel has worked with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, the Bottle Rockets, the Yayhoos (with ex-Georgia Satellites frontman Dan Baird), the Dukes (Steve Earle’s backing band), the forementioned Jimbo Mathus, and a wide variety of solo projects. His work with Sarah gives her tunes a harder, rock edge yet somehow retains that cowpunk, bluesy feel at which she excels. I spoke briefly with Sarah about playing with Roscoe and two points emerge: 1) it feels like a band, especially being off the road for so long and not playing in the same room in front of actual people and 2) it’s a lot of fun. Along with Roscoe’s lead guitar, Sarah’s band included Keith Voegele on bass and Kenny Soule on drums.

The new album, a follow-up to 2018 collaboration with Roscoe, Love’s Middle Name, will be released on Feb. 18, and was also produced by Ambel. Sarah described the process of making it over the past year and relying on Eric’s expertise of recording technology to craft the entire album remotely. The last few weeks, as musicians begin tentative returns to the stage, has given her a chance to play the new songs in front of people and share the immediacy of the live music experience.

I’ve seen several of Sarah’s shows over the last few years, in rooms that were packed to the rafters, so the sparsely attended Jammin Java show this time out was disappointing. Whether it was a “school night” (as Sarah acknowledged) or the newest variant, I couldn’t say. But, no matter. The interplay between Sarah and Roscoe smoked nonetheless, and Kenny and Keith were rock solid. They played for us.

Originally from Taunton, Massachusetts, Sarah started playing in bands just out of high school, getting serious a couple years later. The years have had their share of challenges for performing artists, but as Sarah has said, “We were really lucky right out of the gate, getting to go on tour, having someone put out our record, having a booking agent. I’m almost 40 now, and I’m grateful for every minute of playing in a way that I wasn’t then, because we’ve seen so many highs and lows, and had so many experiences that I’ve realized that they’ve shaped me as a person. I’m also a parent…and seeing what I do through [my son’s] eyes has made me realize how cool my job is.”

See Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles perform “Tendency to Riot” on the Outlaw Country Cruise III in 2018 on YouTube:

The last time I saw Sarah perform at Jammin’ Java back in 2019, I’d missed the first half of the show. Chatting with Sarah afterwards, she’d told me, “Ah, don’t worry [about missing the first set], we do all the shitty songs in the first set and save the good stuff for the second.” After seeing her perform twice in the past week, I can say with certainty, that’s not true. Sarah’s performances are always outstanding.

Find much more on Sarah Borges’ website.

Jammin Java requires proof of vaccination or a negative covid test within 72 hours of show date for entry to all shows. Additionally, a mask must be worn at all times unless actively dinking or eating. Please take advantage of the food (Union Pie’s pizzas are outstanding) and beverage offerings and be sure to show your generous appreciation to the serving staff. You’ll also want to check out, and buy, the artists’ merchandise.

Here are some photos of Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles featuring Eric “Roscoe” Ambel at Jammin Java on Dec. 1, 2021. All photos courtesy and copyright Mark Caicedo.

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