I don’t normally have my socks knocked off by a newcomer to my musical world. That’s not how I’m built. It generally takes many exposures until I develop a familiarity with the songs before I can decide whether I like or dislike a particular artist. I’m one of those people who will drive others around me crazy because I will play a song over and over again when I’m bonding with it – sometimes 15 or 20 times in a row. With each play my familiarity increases. As my familiarity increases, my bond with the artist does as well. Finally I can say, “I like this artist.” So you can see it’s a heck of a lot of work for me to decide that a particular artist deserves the pedigree of being added to my favorites. With so many constraints on my time, and so little of that time available to listen to new artists, it’s a wonder that any new artist successfully scales the walls I have set up to arrive at my consciousness.
Mia Borders busted through those walls as if they weren’t even there. No multiple listens needed, thank you. It was love at first sight! This woman knocked my socks off. It’s only a matter of time before you know who she is.
I saw Mia Borders perform quite by accident. I was down in New Orleans visiting my son and his wife, and he took us to a three day music fest called Bayou Boogaloo. Bayou Boogalou featured New Orleans Jazz, Blues and Funk. It showcased 36 bands over the three day period. We went all three days. Being big fans of the HBO show Treme, we wanted to see some of the groups and vocalists who had appeared on the show. We also wanted to see the Treme Brass Band because not only do they appear in the show Treme, but they were the band that played at my son’s wedding. So on Friday, May 18th, we went to see the Brassaholics open the fest. They were followed by Mia Borders.
Right away I noticed that Mia had exceptional “stage presence”. You know what I mean. The type of person whose very demeanor commands your attention. She had a sassy attitude and banter between songs that made you feel as if there was no “down-time” in the entire set. At times, she would mimic shouts of the audience right back at them. She kept a running dialog going that showed a marketing intelligence often lacking in new groups. Believe me, by the time this set was over, everyone in the audience knew that this performer was Mia Borders. Not only that, they knew where she’d be playing that evening.
Mia displayed an interesting mix in the set she played at Boogalou Bayou. Much of the set was original material written by Mia. She also performed some great classics. My favorite in this category was her rendition of that great Stevie Wonder tune titled Living for the City. You can tell Mia is a serious professional by the musicians she surrounds herself with. They are without exception excellent. This is the mark of an artist who wants to give her work the best platform in order to create the atmosphere needed to launch it. And launch it she will. This is a star waiting to happen. One of her songs will take off, and she will become a household name.
As I was leaving the festival I stopped by to purchase two of her CDs-her first album and her third and latest (Okay, I’m cheap. I should have gotten the second as well. Now I have to go out and find it). I’ve listened to these discs at least four times now. And each time I become more convinced that this artist is on the edge of breakout.
If you put a gun to my head and asked me to describe Mia in two words, I’d say Blues-Tenor. But that does not give you the complete picture. That’s because Mia has a strong personality and various moods. Those moods come through in her recordings, and her personality is a big part of her on-stage appeal. She can be that tough as nails street-wise New Orleans girl who knows the gritty side of city life. She can be that hands-on-hips, head “tilted to the side” sassy girl who gives you lip and takes no quarter. She can also be sweet and soulful, showing an amazing vulnerability – the kind of girl you want to put your arms around and protect. And when she decides she wants to by sexy, you’ll find you have very little defense. All these are Mia.
Mia’s first album, Magnolia Blue, is named after the title track. It is a written by Mia and performed in a memorable
manner. It’s followed by “Fly”, an appealing love song delivered in a slightly up tempo manner. “These Roads” is one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s a song that shows Mia belting it out to great accompaniment and then getting quiet and cerebral. “Uncompromising” is a pretty ballad performed with Kyle Sclafani. “Try Me On” displays Mia’s overt sexuality in its best light. “Love Song” showcases Mia at her best. I love this track and am listening to it now as I type these words. It is a sad and mournful love ballad. Mia is made to perform these kinds of songs.
Mia’s third album shows her growth as an artist and her willingness to integrate different types of songs into her repertoire with slightly more solo time for her always excellent musicians. On this album she is accompanied on guitar by the great Takeshi Shimmura. On “Somethings Burning Down in New Orleans” we get some nice solos. The sassy & brassy Mia makes her appearance in “Play” and “Funk You Up”. “Sweet Septembers” is a pretty ballad and “Mississippi Rising” is a beautiful track that has lyrics which could as well be adapted to gospel, but that is certainly not how it’s delivered here. “Second Love” is another blues ballad that Mia so excels with. I also loved “Mama Told Me” and “Use Me”.
Clearly my description of Mia’s talents doesn’t do them justice. What you need to do is buy one of her CDs. You won’t be sorry. You’ll be hearing from Mia. Remember, you heard it here first!