[Cover photo credit to Jen Squires]
John Borra has long been a fixture of the Toronto Alternative music scene, from witnessing the first stirrings of Punk as a kid in the late 1970s, to joining his first bands at the dawn of the Alt-Rock movement in the 1980s, and forging a solo career during the Roots music renaissance that followed.
His new album, Cassettes In Common, pays tribute to virtually all of those eras by presenting Borra’s new interpretations of 10 songs by fellow singer/songwriters who helped build the scene, such as Ron Sexsmith, Kyp Harness, Bob Snider, Sam Larkin and Frank Nevada. There will be a launch event for the album on Wednesday, October 26th.
The first focus track from Cassettes In Common pays tribute to Vancouver legend Art Bergmann. “Sleep,” from Bergmann’s 1990 album Sexual Roulette is an observation of a dysfunctional relationship.
Assisting Borra in the studio was another group of Toronto Underground artists including Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies, Blue Rodeo keyboardist Mike Boguski, original Blue Rodeo drummer Cleave Anderson, Doughboys/Rusty guitarist Scott McCullough, fiddler Miranda Mulholland, Handsome Ned guitarist Steve Koch, and Borra’s longtime friends and collaborators Sam Ferrara and Johnny MacLeod.
These are songs by people I know or have known, which gives it an extra specialness for me. Some of them have never had a commercial release and some others are pretty obscure—or at least not in the popular consciousness. I think all of the songs and artists here are top notch and deserve recognition. It’s also how we keep songs alive. By doing them. It’s part of the folk tradition.
Borra is also paying tribute to his own past by simultaneously giving his first solo release, the 1997 self-titled John Borra cassette its first CD/digital reissue.