- Boris Garcia
If you’ve crossed paths with any of Boris Garcia’s four studio albums (dating back to 2005’s Family Reunion ), then you already know that these guys are song crafters and talented players. But unless you’ve caught the band in a live setting, you’ve never experienced their ability to take a tune out out out to its furthest reaches simply to see what they might find there. Sure, there have been sweet dollops of jam spread here and there throughout the band’s studio recordings, but their fearless improv abilities have never been properly showcased on record.
Their new release Live offers a half-dozen cuts (the shortest clocking in at just over 10 minutes) and is a total jamfest from beginning to end. Joining founding members Jeff Otto (vocals, bass, ukulele, guitar), Bob Stirner (vocals, guitar, bass), and Bud Burroughs (mandolin, bouzouki, and keys) is drummer Tim Kelly – blessed with a jazzman’s groove, a flair for funk, and a rock ‘n’ roll heart. Chip Desnoyers adds spacey and lovely pedal steel to a couple of the tunes on Live ; elsewhere, Tom Hampton’s soaring lap steel provides a layer of tastiness.
Right off the bat, it needs to be acknowledged that Bud Burroughs ought to be arrested for being too damn good at too many things. For years, Burroughs has been Boris Garcia’s master of the mando and ‘zouk, his eight-string work helping to define the band’s sound. It wasn’t until the last studio album (2011’s Today We Sail ) that Burroughs really stepped into the forefront with some impressive piano and organ work – and if that wasn’t enough of a “Where the hell did that come from?” moment, Live finds him propelling several of the jams to some place far away with his killer keys.
Right off the bat, it’s Burroughs’ piano that leads the beautiful glide of the brand-new “Waters Blue”, with Otto on lead vocals. The jam begins with a major-flavored exploration, Stirner’s punchy, aggressive bass combining with Kelly’s rhythms to challenge things without ever losing a grip on the groove. Desnoyers maintains a high-altitude reconnaissance on the pedal steel as things evolve into an angular piano/bass freakout of the nicest sort. Eventually, the band touches down softly; Kelly fastens the beat in place; and Otto comes in with one more bouncy Boris Garcia-y verse. (And take note that Burroughs has at this point gone totally Garth Hudson on the organ to finish the tune in grand style. It’s madness, I tell you.)
Don’t worry, though: fans of Burroughs’ talents on things with strings will find plenty to love on Live as well. Take Long Black Hair, for instance: Burroughs’ mandolin chugs along to either side of the beat, working the rhythm like a safecracker as the vibe swings from Appalachian to Tibetan; a wild cascade of mando gives way to the moan of Hampton’s lap steel as the song tumbles into a dark, dark place (when did the sun turn black?); but Bob Stirner guides things back to the original groove in the final moments with one last verse to seal the deal.
Stirner swaps leads with Hampton’s lap steel when things get wild during “Good Home”, the two of them pushing each other to look around the next corner in a cool display of taste and talent. “Believin’ Time” features another great six-string workout by Stirner as Burroughs grows a couple extra limbs and slathers splashes of multi-colored piano and organ all over everything. And then there’s “Point Of Grace” – a Jeff Otto tune that began life as a ukulele-and-pizza-box ditty in the band’s early days. Here “Point Of Grace” stretches out and finds its funky inner self, the bass and drums going deep into the pocket while the uke chugs along and Hampton fires off bursts from his lap steel like he’s cracking a whip.
At the core of Live lies six well-written tunes – a fact that’s always been the constant with Boris Garcia. But the jams they evolve into are must-hears for anyone who cares to experience masters at work (and having fun doing it).
Brian Robbins keeps his empty pizza boxes over at www.brian-robbins.com