"If it feels right, do it... screw the box."
“Steve Earle meets Captain Beefheart with a little Johnny Appleseed thrown in.”
I grew up in the swamps of Massachusetts, wandering the woods, a free agent, running from cops and neighbors with frogs and lady slippers (Cypripedium calceolus) in my hands.
Despite the known existence of classical trained musicians in my family, I didn’t pick up the guitar until age 15. I attended Marlboro College in Vermont as a creative writing major, but didn’t take well to structure–only to my guitar and songwriting. I left college after a year, working on various farms and eventually ended up on small island called Naushon off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
On Naushon I met world renowned ethnomusicologist Ralph Rinzler, who discovered Doc Watson and started Folkways Records. Ralph asked me to play a song for him, and then took it upon himself to give me a lesson or two. Later, he hired me to drive his private collection of priceless Blues cylinders from DC to Ojai, California. Along the way I went through New Mexico and was completely taken by its strange beauty.
EAST OR WEST
Soon after, while working on a hay wagon on Naushon. I fell into one of Einstein’s “wormholes” and ended up in Santa Cruz, California studying sustainable agriculture, permaculture, horticulture and organic gardening. I started an organic farm in Sebastopol in 1994. After a year or so, I found myself lured back to New Mexico.
In December of 1999, after five years in Santa Fe, I moved back to Massachusetts to dedicate my life to music and songwriting. After five years in Boston, landing on a European label and winning Boston’s Best Male Vocalist Award, I decided to leave it all on a good note and returned to New Mexico. Back in the Land of Enchantment I continued this musical dream, along with buying an “off the grid” farm, planting an orchard, getting married, raising two free-range kids, being Mayordomo of the valley, being an arborist and touring Europe every two years.
This dream continues with one of the greatest undiscovered bands of all time, the Mighty Salt Licks. I have been told by fans that we “saved their lives”, “helped them heal”, “performed the best show they have ever seen in their life” and one fan even went as far as to say “Boris, if you make me cry one more time, I’m gonna have to kick your ass”. My music draws from simple everyday life and its strange cast of players; and compels and asks to find a deeper purpose in it all.
THE STUDIO AND THE SONGS
I arranged in October 2011 to go back into the studio and try to knock out some new songs the band and I had been kicking around since the Spring. We had tested the new songs out at the Moab Folk Festival, in Holland, and at various New Mexican venues and had settled on some long-tried and tested arrangements. From the beginning of Fall 2011 I had been completely overcome by the season’s tone, its light and intensity. It really struck me in a way that I had not felt in a while or maybe ever.
My wife and I had been struggling for years to raise our kids in a remote, off the grid valley and really not making ends meet with her schoolteacher salary and my musician’s chump change. It was all really coming to a head and the Fall just brought it there quickly in a raving yellow sea of aspens.
MIGHT CRASH TAKES SHAPE
One of the main songs to be recorded that weekend was a song entitled “Might Crash”. It was a song that began as a joke, to bring some lightness to the dark mood of the times. I was feeling regretful and worthless and when I saw one of our dogs dining on a diaper in the melting snow, I turned and asked my wife if we had turned into white trash. How did our ideals morph into this gruesome image? Babies crying, broke, stuck on the mountain splitting wood in a snowstorm. Why were we here, what were we doing? The song became “Might Crash”, the title track of the new album. A song that in the end, sums up our New Great Depression.
How do you know when you might crash?
Is the dog eating diapers on the dying lawn?
Do your lips not reach her before she leaves?
Is she wondering where the fun has gone?
Finally, the morning came to meet with the Mighty Salt Licks at the studio. As I drove down the mountain from Truchas, NM, the aspen groves were on fire, and my heart was on fire. I was overtaken again, and had to pull over and try to sum up the feeling. I wrote the song “Flesh and Dream” on the shoulder of the ribbon of death, Highway 76. I finished the song before I had arrived at Frogville Studios. I decided to show it to Susan and the band and we recorded it first, hardly knowing it at all. Cautiously we entered “Flesh and Dream” trying to find its groove and depth. Going into the studio and recording a song that the band has never heard and I have never played on guitar is something I would never do, but somehow it felt right then and we did it and triumphed. It is also one of the strongest songs on the new album. The “Might Crash” project has been recorded live from the beginning with the entire band in one big room. The core tracks of the project were recorded that fall week, in October 2011 by Bill Palmer. All said and done there have been 20 songs recorded live at John Treadwell’s Frogville with a few guest performers. It has been a stunning project, one that has mellowed and matured over time like a good whiskey. This project would never have made it off the ground without the dynamic engineering powers and generosity of Bill Palmer.
THE MIGHTY BAND
At any given show multi-instrumentalist Brett Davis seeks out the perfect tone through one of his handmade perfect amps. He is a scholar of North American music and draws his greatest influence probably from guitarist Robbie Robertson. I have collaborated with him for almost twenty years. His soulful playing was absolutely essential in the making of the analog albums “When We Were Big”, and “Cactusman Versus The Blue Demon”. Brett is one of a kind and since he is the only member from New Mexico he brings that vibe with him, relaxed and behind the beat. His playing speaks volumes on this new “Might Crash” project.
Susan Holmes or “Thunder Hoof”, as we affectionately call her, is the finest bass player in the Land of Enchantment and I am blessed to have shared the stage with her for almost ten years. She is a truly awesome presence and breaks up the ugly white boy syndrome in the band. Susan can conquer a crowd with her smile and bass thunder and regularly schools the band in true three-part harmony.
Kevin Zoernig aka “Professor Furious” produced ”Cactusman”, and the “Wheel of Life” albums. He is the most gifted musician and teacher I have ever had the privilege to work with. Kevin is daring to the end on keys and with visions and ideas to boot in the studio.
Paul Groetzinger is one the finest drummers in the Southwest. Because he is a fine singer too, his drums follow suit and play to the phrasing of each song accordingy. He studied at the College of Santa Fe under you guessed it, “Professor Furious”. He has the guts to go out on a limb. He tries new things. He experiments. He feels it and everyone knows it. His approach is fantastically fluid but with a Charlie Watts rock ‘n’ roll appeal.
Guest performers on the album include: Sharon Gilchrist, Stephanie Hatfield, George Langston, Ollie O’Shea, Michael Chavez, Chris McGandy.
1: What artist would you most love to work with?
Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Steve Earle, Neil Young, Richard Thompson
2: What instrument brings you the most joy?
3: What was the worst advice?
To play it safe
4: What was your first concert?
Winny the Poo musical. I played an aggressive Piglet who pushed Poo out of the way to sing the lead song
5: What/where is the best road food?
Somewhere in Belgium
6: What’s the best music advice you ever got?
Bust out of the campfire and the closet and start being an entertainer! You could be the first man to play Lillith Fair!
7: Who is your most surprising inspiration?