What we have here is the peanut slab of New Zealand music; no pretence, just good honest Kiwi music. Unfortunately that leaves out that portion of the audience that are allergic to nuts, but that takes nothing away from Slow Borders. It’s not their fault they can only listen to Death Metal.
It would be impossible to write this review without mentioning the similarity to Jack Johnson. In fact, I’ve already heard Crash on the airwaves and associated it with a new release from Johnson. Whether the similarity is intentional or not, both are successful in capturing the relaxed temperament of the island mindset. In the press release accompanying Slow Borders the band mention John Mayer as one of their main influences and went so far as to hire Dave O’Donnell, who worked with Mayer on his release Continuum, to mix their album.
O’Donnell is not the only international outsider the band brought in to perfect their music. In a considerably unusual move Stirling Sound’s Ryan Smith, who is known for his work with Beyonce, was asked to master the album in New York. While in no way similar to Beyonce the subtle effects of the mastering are the same; it sounds good and you want more.
The implicate cost and wait time associated with hiring such big names were well worth it in terms of the quality of this release. The mix is crisp and warm completing the bright summer feel already created thru the lush guitar tones, jocund harmonica interludes, soulful vocals, hums and deep breaths and the swelling unobtrusive rhythm section. The backing vocals create a subtle luminous ambience that is the paper beneath the kindling of the searing winter fireplace that is Slow Borders.
It couldn’t be released at a better time, as our temperatures fall and our memories of a scorching summer are still fresh in our minds. It’s all you need on a cold winter’s morning while stuck at an intersection in a torrential downpour with a torrent of traffic in between you and your workplace. To explain it in the words of Phil Edwards “It’s so fine... it’s my summertime” (Track One, Crash).
But it’s not all sunshine and double rainbows. Further thru the album we encounter the darker Lit my Fire, an almost emotional discourse on love lost from a protagonist who seems too nonchalant to be that bothered. “You lit my fire, but that was such a long long time ago” (Track Three, Lit my Fire). I love the lyric, “there’s something falling away from my soul, and I think it’s you.” It draws an obscure allusion to the semi-recent space shuttle disaster, where the explosion was thought to be caused by a piece falling away from the shuttle. The intro guitar is like the famous Kiwi bands of yesteryear with a happiness found in the music of the barefoot hippy years. Along with What the World Needs it’s one of the stand out tracks of the release.
Just before Lit my Fire we have Believe, the moody slow jam of the album, a bluesy emotional plea that begs you to cheer up. “Life ain’t so hard if you follow with your heart” (Track Four, Believe). Starting off as a throbbing echo and shortly joined with heart-rending chords, slow drums and long bass notes the solo builds you up from the sadness and brings a feeling of elation. It’s definitely a burning lighter salute moment (I’m doing it while listening) and I’d be disappointed if this didn’t receive any radio play.
My recommendation: Sit back with a few mates with a wine in one hand and talk about happy times while the Phil Edwards band plays quietly on the stereo and enjoy the good vibes it creates.
'Slow Borders' is the debut album from the Phil Edwards Band, to be released in March 2011. Led by none other than Phil Edwards, this six-piece band possesses a distinctive summer feel to their songs. Ranging from warm acoustic ballads to blues numbers, the songs are all linked by honest, emotive lyrics and Phil’s unique voice.
The first single 'Crash' opens the album, a summertime anthem that has been gracing the NZ radio airwaves since its release late in 2010. The first part of 'Slow Borders' continues in a similar vein, while the middle of the album brings a grittier tone, with rhythmic tracks such as 'Lit My Fire' and 'Rhythm of the River' recalling love gone wrong. The lush harmonica-laden 'Society' is a bluesy take on politics and the current state of the world, and 'Taking the Long Way' a heartfelt, haunting ballad that rounds out the album, before it is brought to a close by acoustic final track 'Broken Down'.
As both the driving force and the front man of the band, Phil Edwards provides warm vocals and catchy acoustic hooks. Tom Charleson (guitar, BVs) brings a wealth of live experience after touring both sides of the Tasman with Auckland band Tahuna Breaks, and alongside Phil, helps direct the song-writing. Forming a solid foundation for the band’s music is an experienced rhythm section comprised of drummer Ryan Wilson and bass player Adrian Ashdown, who have both toured extensively throughout Australia and New Zealand. James Townend (harmonica, percussion and BVs) and Hamish McClean (keys, sax and trombone) complete the line-up and complement the band with their diverse musical backgrounds.