Boris McCutcheon – As Old As Espanola

Album Review | Frogville | Review by Marc Higgins

Boris McCutcheon is one third of the excellent Hoth Brothers, with a career as a performer that stretches back twenty years and through a set of albums on his own and with the Saltlicks.  Solo, As Old As Espanola has a electric Americana feel from the languid swampy “La Llorona and the Lowriders” or “The Mighty Jemez” to the snappy “Feels Good to Go to Work”.  Boris has one of those voices that just gets better with age and time he has the smiling snarl of Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen spinning Nebraska tales of hard work and hard living.  These are folk songs for the electric age.  

The title track is infectious rock n roll, written while driving the New Mexico town of Espanola.  The song is, one of the tracks that mention those classic American lowrider cars.  Boris remembers being told early on that the Lowriders were originally from New Mexico not LA and the mandolin and accordion give a great sense of that arid open country.  “The Mighty Jemez” with its disturbing apocalyptic imagery and atmospheric music was inspired by the fires of 2011, but maybe has wider ecological tales to tell.  Boris’ double tracked voice over the keening pedal steel is inspirational.  “Angelina’s Farm” is another infectious car song, full of real life messages, a kind of Tex Mex Mungo Jerry “In The Summertime” vibe without the dated dodgy drink driving references.  Puts a real smile on your face.  “La Llorona and the Lowriders” is a spiritual song with a long gestation period.  It has a slightly hallucinogenic feel, shuffle drums, wafts of pedal steel like the best of Jim White and a huge solid bass line straight from Neil Young’s Harvest.  The track flows around like whisky haze.  “Begging for Dollars” inspired by Boris’ father-in-law and his, distain for crowd funding, is a modern protest song and pokes fun at the hoops, an artist jumps through.  “Dust Devillish” is a, swirling true tale with the gothic fairy tale feel of The Handsome Family.  “I Held Your Hand” is a classic Country song the lyrical richness of Townes Van Zandt or a dark Steve Earle tale is given a little sweetness with Jon Gaboff’s steel guitar shimmering like short wave radio.  The price may have gone up, but Boris’ Americana appropriation of The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed’s “Waiting For My Man” is spot on, as sharp as the original, proving that somethings are the same wherever you are.  “Devil Dave” with its stripped back sound and pop backing vocals has some fine guitar work and a feel of a 60s foggy Folk Rock Velvet Underground.  “Snowy Mountains” like a, solo Stephen Stills track, is a vivid picture of winter mountain isolation and Boris’ favourite.  Final track is an electric hi energy romp though Boris’ “Trees Of Heaven” from The Hoth Brothers 2019 album.  It’s propelled by duelling guitars from Brett Davis and Alex McMahon and a smouldering vocal from Boris.  Amen indeed.  A fine mix of classic songs and sounds, slow and dreamlike or sharp and energetic Boris McCutcheon manages to capture moments of real life in all its vivid sparkle. This isn’t an album that distils, easily down to one track that will draw in the listeners, its more layered and expansive than that.  I’d urge you to check it all out on YouTube, or better still buy it and then turn it up.

Choice Track: La Llorona and the Lowriders (NSV 506)