Chris Brokaw & Geoff Farina – The Boarder’s Door

Chris Brokaw & Geoff Farina - The Boarder's Door

Having already delivered one of the most enjoyable releases of both their careers earlier this year – in the shape of the stripped-down vintage covers-based The Angel’s Message To Me journeying veterans Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina have rapidly, but not prematurely, returned for a second joint-billed installment. Strictly speaking, The Boarder’s Door is actually more of a shared record than a genuinely collaborative one, given that only two tracks find the twosome sat (literally) on the same Italian veranda. So, whereas The Angel’s Message To Me heightened their similarities through beautifully celebrating the cobwebbed catalogues of past blues-folk legends, The Boarder’s Door heralds their distinctive characters without breaking fraternal bonds.

The two duo cuts, which open the album, pick-up where The Angel’s Message To Me left-off. Via The Stanley Brothers’ “Little Maggie” (sung by Farina’s yearning delicate pipes) and the traditional “Try Me One More Time” (led by Brokaw’s dustier tones), the twosome again revive creaky old idioms with joint-loosening openness. From thereon in things become even more interesting and illuminating, as the remaining nine tracks are divvied-up between Brokaw and Farina in solo settings; mixing further covers, instrumentals and new material in lo-fi/mid-fi acoustic recording environments.

Brokaw’s contributions are startlingly strong in isolation; magnifying his darker edge and his more diverse artistic reach. Recorded in various European hotel rooms – sometimes with tape-hiss and traffic noise adding extra accompaniment – Brokaw glides through his three originals and one borrowed relic with seemingly effortless expert ease. The insistent and tense “Into The Woods” is as good as anything from his still wondrous unplugged Wandering As Water LP. The murkier “Criminals” channels the sullen dread at the heart of his erstwhile Come canon. The desolate yet gorgeous instrumental “Faenza” recalls his overlooked VSDQ: Solo Acoustic Volume 3 long-player of last year as well as past fine work with Pullman, while a heartstring-wrecking take on Marty Robbins’ “They’re Hanging Me Tonight” will hold fans of Lou Barlow and Will Oldham’s early Palace records in awe.

In contrast, Farina’s more studio-crafted contributions appear brighter and warmer but not lightweight or jarringly contradictory.  Working with Brokaw in electricity-deprived arrangements to honour the sparse sublimations of pre-WW2 songcraft appears to have made a positive impact on Farina’s modus operandi. Sometimes a little guilty of letting jazz-inspired virtuosity obscure his charms even when in peeled-back set-ups, here Farina has a new-found sense of simplicity and directness. Although his pretty wordless reinterpretation of Elizabeth Cotten’s “Take Me Back To Baltimore” taps directly into old-timey influences, the recalibration of Farina’s own muse is delightfully confirmed across four generously given self-penned pieces, that have absorbed antique as well as peer group influences. Through the dainty “Hammer And Spade,” the wistful nostalgic “Prelapsarian,” the elevating yet melancholic “You Ain’t On Your Way to Hell” and the rurally contemplative “The Dove And The Lamb,” Farina steers multiple strands of folk-imbibed Americana into cohesive cliché-free compositions, which bodes well for his next album under the Glorytellers umbrella.

Whether together, apart or just in the same vague vicinity, it’s clear that Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina’s talented tributaries have entwined here masterfully once more, for a collection that comforts as much as it challenges. Long may they run, on communal and/or solitary paths.

Damnably/Capitan Records

Geoff Farina – “Hammer And Spade” (from The Boarder’s Door)