Best of Both Worlds – Border Patrol Bridges American, Canadian Folk on ‘The Worst Excuses’ Album

Border Patrol’s new album, “The Worst Excuses,” poignantly and irreverently addresses a spectrum of inner hurdles and identifies novel ways to overcome them.

Border Patrol masterfully builds a lasting sonic bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

As musical architects, the American-Canadian “folk-everything” duo of Dave Toennies (guitar, vocals) and Cody Howard (banjo, vocals) creates a timeless infrastructure supported by candid lyrics, robust string instrumentation and impassioned vocals on The Worst Excuses.

Released last week, Border Patrol’s second, soul-stirring album spans eight raw tracks layered with shared stories of self-doubt and second guesses wrapped in daily struggles and victories of incremental growth, minor adjustments and hopeful moments. Each Worst Excuses track poignantly and irreverently addresses a spectrum of inner hurdles and identifies novel ways to overcome them.

“It started from my personal experience, and that’s the only way that I’ve managed to make real progress growing in recent years. I’m easily overwhelmed sometimes at the prospect of self-improvement and all the things that have to come with it,” said Toennies, who lives in Hamtramck.

“Because I tend to get real busy and involved in things and overwhelm myself, I try to focus on just the one little thing in front of me that I have to do, get that one done and then move on to the next. Once I started trying to scale that up and applying it to a much more broad growth thing, it’s been the only thing that’s really worked for me.”

Uncovering ‘The Worst Excuses’

With Toennies and Howard at the storytelling helm, Border Patrol invites listeners into a raw, recognizable head trip that crosses international waters and lands directly in the midst of relatable chaos. Their internal journey begins with “A Little Bit Better (Still Bad)” as a tight-knit fusion of folky acoustic guitar, banjo and drums quickly launches into an ongoing tale of feeling stuck personally and professionally.

Despite the track’s initial, dark mood, Toennies eloquently finds a small silver lining, “But there was nothing that could hurt me in that moment/And there was nothing for me in the life I knew/In that moment something unexpected happened/Out of nothing, something grew.” Occasionally, an optimistic, hopeful thought briefly wins over an anxious, weary mind on the toughest of days.

“I hope it’s a positive thing, and there are just a lot of running jokes that we perpetuate, too. It can be sort of depressing music, but I think that it’s depressing in the way that it’s trying to be frank and talk about things that we have a hard time talking about sometimes,” Toennies said.

“We’ve always tried to take these serious topics, and rather than having it sound super serious, maybe make it a little fun, bouncy and upbeat. I hope that it’s relatable and positive in spite of all the things that are wrong.”

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Light Up – Detroit’s Mike Ward Shines on Reflective, Poignant Americana Folk Tales

Mike Ward performs regularly solo and with other artists in metro Detroit. Photo by Scott Kraus

Mike Ward believes in light-bulb moments.

The Detroit Americana folk singer-songwriter discovered a recent songwriting prompt illuminated a bright idea – a new track called “Our Turn to Shine.”

“That song actually began as a song prompt from John Lamb’s songwriting retreat. His songwriters’ retreat, which I did last year and then I just got back from, I can’t say enough about it,” Ward said. “It just sort of jumpstarted me last year, and he does these really long involved prompts, and it was about changing out incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs.”

As one of Ward’s newest tracks, “Our Turn to Shine” features fast acoustic strums intertwined with a nostalgic, hopeful feel – “I’m a dinosaur made of glass and tin/Take a new one out and screw a new one in/But for now, I’ll light the way/Brighten up your everyday/If only for a short time/It’s still my turn to shine.”

“It had all these specifics in it. I’ve kept most of them, and I have reworked it since I got back from the camp to try and make it more of a universal appeal. It basically has become a metaphor for even if you’re old, there are parts of you that are still usable, you can still shine,” he said. “It’s sort of like let’s all celebrate that aspect in ourselves. A lot of the songs I’ve been writing over the last year I think as I look at my experience and my life, it has crept into a lot of songs.”

Ward also shines on his other latest single, “Content,” which he submitted for NPR’s 2019 Tiny Desk Contest. The pensive track includes a beautiful acoustic guitar as its sonic centerpiece – “It’s a simple life in a complex world/ I want what’s mine and you want what’s yours/But when you’re all by yourself and the money is all spent/Are you gonna leave this world completely content?”

“It’s really about what do you regret, what don’t you regret, what will you be content with when you leave this earth, and how do you want to be remembered – that’s sort of the gist of it. I do write some fairly downer songs, but usually when I have a song that I’m trying to make a point with, or it has a serious undertone, I try and find ways to keep levity involved in it. From the influence of John Prine, Steve Earle and Warren Zevon, songwriters like that who always seem to have a way of not taking it too seriously, those are songwriters who I really admire,” Ward said.

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Kim Richey Returns to Her Midwestern Roots for Tonight’s 20 Front Street Show

Kim Richey will perform tonight at 20 Front Street in Lake Orion with Jordie Lane and Clare Reynolds.

For Kim Richey, tonight will serve as a Midwestern musical homecoming of sorts.

The Nashville roots singer-songwriter, who originally hails from Dayton, Ohio, will perform tonight at 20 Front Street in Lake Orion with Australian singer-songwriters Jordie Lane and Clare Reynolds. It will be Richey’s second time performing at the 100-seat intimate acoustic music venue.

“I always try to do songs from all the records, at least one or two from every record. I’ll be playing a lot of stuff from ‘Edgeland,’” said Richey during a phone interview from Banff, Alberta. “It’s such a blast to sing with people who are great singers, so we have a lot of great harmony things going. Clare plays keyboards and percussion as well, Jordie plays electric guitar, and I play acoustic.”

Edgeland album artwork

On her latest album, “Edgeland,” Richey moves through the topography of life as a woman committed to following her music. She chronicles missed train rides, cautionary tales of dangerous love, potential new pathways and other self-discoveries on the 12-track Americana-infused project.

From the Buck Owens/Don Rich opening notes of “Red Line” to the Laurel Canyon lushness of “The Get Together” to the Dusty Springfield-inspired “Can’t Let You Go” to the somber “Black Trees,” Richey’s husky crystalline alto sweeps listeners up in a whirl along her heartfelt auditory journey.

“Once every few years, you pick a dozen songs or so for a new album,” said Richey, who’s also lived in Los Angeles and London. “I think those songs reflect where I was at the time while making the record, but I have a home now, so things have changed.”

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‘Sainthood’ – Tegan and Sara Indie Pop Gem Still Sparkles 7 Years Later

Tegan and Sara perform on Oct. 26 at the Royal Oak Music Theater in Royal Oak, Mich. during the “Love You to Death” tour.

Editor’s Note: Brian Stratton writes about one of his favorite Tegan and Sara albums from the Canadian sisters’ catalog.

We all have a certain song or album that we associate with a band. It might not be the artist’s biggest hit or a critically acclaimed release, but nonetheless it strongly resonates with you.

That is the joy of music, finding a way to personally connect with the art and discovering your own meaning behind it.

For me, I can’t think about Canadian sister duo Tegan and Sara without their 2009 album “Sainthood” crossing my mind.

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