The Border Band is a four-piece group captained by Melvin "Lightnin' LeRoy" Litton on vocals and rhythm guitar, with Robb Popp (the anti-Pope who blesses beer n' wild women) on bass, Dave "Youngblood" Melody on drums, and Roger "The Razor" Holden on lead guitar. We play a raw mix of rock, folk, country, and blues, which we call "Rawhide Rock" because it's fresh-skinned, still dripping blood. We've got songs high-peaked and treacherous as the Rockies, lonely and hunted as the Badlands, and gentle rolling as a pasture in first bloom. A varied terrain, no doubt, but sure and rooted as the dust, rocks, and wind that form us.
Most songs on "Hard West" were recorded at Chubby Smith's Tractor Shed Studio set in the Kaw River Valley a few miles west of Lawrence, Kansas. Large, spacious, and downhome, about the coolest place to record in this region of the planet. With Colin Mahoney at the controls we worked to capture the raw sound that reflects the pace and energy of our live shows. So if you've got a ragin' thirst and an untrammeled heart, lissen up and take a ride through the "Hard West."
scarred by Dakota winds and dead-end roads
where hundred-car freights of loaded coal pass
ghost farms, graves and pasture bones
where a redhead mourns her road-killed man in
midnight bars with one-night stands
and an hombre rides alone at night
in answer to el coyote's cry
where the blues still hatch them
old refrains of murder, lust
and winter rains.
beneath the dust, ocean rock, and above the land
endless sky, where shadows labor to the sun
in thirst for water, oil or love
till even a damn fool's gotta know he's
been fishin' in the wrong hole
But hit town at sundown and cast regret away
on whiskey, bets and naked sweat
in chance for a better day
as night deepens, cars wreck,
lives too in haste and ruin
with bare hands you grip the
wheel on a rutted road to the distant hills
where all is given and all is blest
face another sunrise in the
INDIE-MUSIC.COM -- Derek Blackmon November 5, 2005
"Thanks to the originality of Gram Parsons and loose noodling of The Grateful Dead, country music is no longer limited to big hats, A-chords and pedal steel guitars. Now meet The Border Band's Hard West, a two disc, 26-song collection of low-down, mid-west between the ditches country rock. All you need is the road trip long enough to tackle listening to it in one fell swoop.
While there are a few covers here, the lion's share of originals are due to singer/guitarist Melvin Litton. Rearrangements of "In The Jailhouse Now" and "St. James Infirm'ry" are done sweet justice. Typically I would approach Dylan covers with a suspicious eye, especially those lifted from Blood on the Tracks, but a bluesy cover of "Meet Me in the Morning" is included for your listening pleasure, and have no fear, Zimmy is held to the highest standards.
There isn't a lot of wavering in the elemental sound across the board, but this is merely chalked up to "doing what you do best" rather than doing what is expected from the label execs. The sound quality far exceeds most DIY releases but exudes the confidence of a band with the sole intention of playing whatever it damn well pleases.
There's a prolific nature to Litton, similar to that of Ryan Adams. Whereas the latter's moods may stray from album to album, allowing this randomness to affect the consistency from time to time, Litton seems content to remain constant with the sound, keeping his nose clean. I can only imagine there has to be another double disc of intended filler floating around somewhere. Maybe their next album could just be a box set?
The Border Band holds one truth to be self-evident: Country is the only genre to make it clear that two minutes in any relationship is the difference between a shot of whiskey and a beer to kill the pain. With titles like "If Wishes Was Horses," "Fishin' in the Wrong Hole" and "Taco n' Wine," it's easy to see that being from Kansas has had a rather genuine impact on Litton.
Give me an old Roadhouse saloon with a silent, mysterious hunk named Dalton watching the door, chicken wire protecting the stage and these guys cranking the soundtrack to one hell of a drunken stupor, and that's the America I know!"
WWW.ROOTSTIME.BE - review of "Hard West" - Freddy Celis
(Dutch to English via Click2 Translate) October 23, 2005
"Where does all the good music come from? - I sometimes ask myself. Rootstime in particular knows where to find the increasingly popular genre, roots-Americana. Now I don't mean to imply by this that the The Border Band's third release (already!) is a typical Americana disc. No, Melvin Litton and his band do more than just that....
"Hard West" is a primarily melodic album with infectious rhythms, varying from up-tempo songs through to a mesmerizing sound. That comparison somewhat goes out the window now though, with "Hombre" thundering out of my speakers. Here and there a Coast to Coast rhythm surfaces, in "Jam In Nam", and then they let loose again with the roots rock ballad "Quittin'You". The traditional home base is to be found in "Same Ol' Song". It may seem obvious that The Border Band draw on diverse influences, but the conspicuous link with the blues, "Red Rose Blues", I would call remarkable. Just the combination and change in the final cut, "Champagne In The Saddle", is in itself an invention of true professionals.... I get a certain feeling from them, as if I am being brought under hypnosis, as it were. To soothe the heat of Lawrence, the Rockies and the Badlands, the guys have pooled their talents and ideas and come up with one of the better singer-songwriter albums of our time. The music has exceptional class. Again, not really an Americana disc, but certainly a gem...."
WWW.KINDAMUZIK.NET -- Maurice Dielemans
(Dutch to English via Click2 Translate) October 9, 2005
"Hard West is a double album from The Border Band and for that reason takes a lot after the superlative album The Basement Tapes from Bob Dylan and The Band. Naturally this is not the only reason. The rudimentary music from this quartet is very reminiscent of original rock-'n-roll styles such as standard blues and country, and they bring together these clear influences in short, harmonious rock songs. The landscapes that the songs bring to mind are dried out river beds, deserted highways and scorching desert sand....
As we now listen to Hard West, we are back again in café Hole in the Wall in Austin, Texas.... The Border Band would have gone down well in that bar where you are greeted with a friendly 'howdy' and can buy a pitcher of beer for five dollars. This is just saying that Hard West is above all a pleasurable album.... "
VILLAGE RECORDS - The Border Band ~ Hard West 10/19/05
"This new two disc set is what we call hard country. It has edge with both the music and the lyrics. It's mostly originals with a few cool covers including Bob Dylan's "Meet Me In The Morning." This Midwest band has managed to stay under the radar screen the past few years but that's all about to end with this career making disc. The hats on these guys is likely to be a bit dusty and have more than a couple of spots of blood and sweat...."