With the myriad of issues troubling our world it can be a struggle for an artist to focus on just one of the many subjects available to reflect upon. For her fifth album, singer/songwriter, blues activist and founder of the award-winning Alabama Blues Project, Debbie Bond decided to tackle as many as she could. The ten original tracks on Blues Without Borders take on a wide array of topics from social justice, environmentalism, and equality to all the complications found inside that thing called love.
Along with her collaborator and husband, keyboardist and blues harp player “Radiator” Rick Asherson, Bond began the project in the spring of 2020, tracking with UK drummer Mickey Barker until the world was shut down by the pandemic. Through the miracle of modern technology Bond and company were able to continue recording via the internet, utilizing five studios to record ten guest musicians in the US and UK. The international musical family includes award-winning vocalist Lea Gilmore, Jamaican saxman Ray Carless, a member of the Muscle Shoals Studios Horn section, Brad Guin, and percussionists Joelle Barker and Dave Crenshaw, along with background vocals from Meshon Omoregie, Gabrielle Semoine, and Carla Don and Rachel Edwards (Aka AfroUnicorn), who flew in their parts remotely. This product of connectivity gives greater meaning to the album title and further proves the only borders to creativity are those inside our hearts and minds.
Bond begins her treatise with the Delta swamper “High Rider Blues,” with the trio of guitar, drums and harmonica performed with old-school fire. The simple question “if we only knew what love could do,” is put forth as the chorus of the title track “Blues Without Borders.” Bond collaborated with Lea Gilmore to write this stylish global beat track as a soulful prayer for peace and healing from a collection of stirring voices, who need to be heard worldwide. Bond displays her skills on the Telecaster during the scorching R&B track “Let Me Be,” and the guitar driven blues lament about bad love “Blue Rain,” pouring heart and soul into the performances. She spells out the many charms of her “main man,” during the playful Memphis Soul styled “Radiator,” shedding some light on Asherson’s automotive nickname.
Brad Guin echoes Bond’s pleading vocals with his saxophone on the dulcet call for reconciliation, “Heart of the Matter.” Dave Crenshaw lays down a steady groove on “Winds of Change,” as a firm foundation for Bond to deliver a scathing rebuke of our world’s war with itself. The gospel-fueled tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Let Freedom Ring,” is inspired by his famous speeches and documents pivotal moments in his life, delivered with sincere and passionate love for the iconic civil rights hero. The country tinged “Shades of Blue” is an examination of the complications found in love and its many pursuits. Bond and Asherson close the album with “Road Song,” a celebration of their love and life as traveling troubadours singing the rambling blues, the whole world over. Patience, persistence and innovation brought the Blues Without Borders project to fruition. Debbie Bond and her whole team should be proud of the accomplishment.
Rick J Bowen
American singer, guitar player and songwriter Debbie Bond has been performing for decades in the Alabama backwoods and is a regular on the Southern US and European club and festival circuit. Influenced by Alabama’s raw juke joint blues and the famed sounds of Muscle Shoals, Debbie’s impressive story includes years of performing with traditional Alabama blues musicians, like Johnny Shines, Eddie Kirkland, Willie King, Shar Baby, Little Jimmy Reed and many more. Immersion in Alabama roots music has deeply flavored her guitar playing, soulful voice and original songwriting, giving her a contemporary and original sound, with soul, blues, and jazz influences. Debbie’s collaboration with British born keyboard and harmonica player “Radiator” Rick adds a swampy New Orleans edge. Debbie is a blues activist and founder of the award-winning Alabama Blues Project, a non-profit dedicated to promoting and preserving the state’s blues heritage. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a “Keeping the Blues Alive Award” from the Blues Foundation, and a prestigious “Coming Up Taller Award” for her blues education work. She has been inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame as a “Blues Achiever” and the national Blues Hall of Fame as a “Great Blues Artist.”
Lea Gilmore, is a featured guest vocalist and co-author of the title track, “Blues Without Borders.” This inspirational vocalist is a social justice and human rights activist who has lent her voice to advocate for the under-served around the globe. She has performed, lectured and presented concerts and workshops internationally, including the US, UK, Europe, Russia and Africa. She has headlined sold-out concerts and workshops focused on the intersection of the arts and social activism. Named by Essence Magazine as one of the “25 Women Shaping the World,” Lea has been the recipient of numerous music and civil rights awards, including the Blues Foundation’s “Keeping the Blues Alive” award and the James Baldwin Medal for Civil Rights.
“Radiator” Rick Asherson is a multi-instrumentalist who blows a mean harp, plays honky-tonk piano with hints of Louisiana swamp, sings, and co-writes on all their tunes. Since moving to Alabama in 2001, Rick has performed, and played keyboards and harmonica for several other Alabama blues greats, including Willie King, Little Jimmy Reed, and Eddie Kirkland. He married Debbie Bond in 2003 and they continue to tour regularly together. Their close musical collaboration includes writing and producing three, critically acclaimed CDs – Hearts Are Wild, That Thing Called Love and Enjoy the Ride.
UK drummer Micky Barker flew to Alabama to record for this album. For the past five years, he has been part of Bond’s UK touring band. A versatile drum wizard, he is equally comfortable playing jazz, rock, folk or blues. His storied past includes recording and touring with many UK and international artists, such as the great John Etheridge of Soft Machine fame, plus eight studio albums and touring with famed rock giants Magnum. In recent years Micky has dug back down to his blues roots performing with many US blues acts including Big George Brock, Sherman Robertson and Jimmy Griswold.
Jamaican Saxman Ray Carless recorded his tracks in England. Fluent in soul, blues, reggae, jazz and R&B, he has recorded and toured with the likes Billy Ocean, Courtney Pine, and Vin Gordon. Last but not least he toured and recorded with Grammy winner Adele on her first two albums, “Rolling in the Deep” and “I’ll Be Waiting.”
Saxman Brad Guin, currently a member of the Muscle Shoals Horns, has performed or recorded with many soul and blues greats, including Greg Allman, Bobby “Blue” Bland, BB King, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Ojays, Percy Sledge, Little Milton, Eddie Floyd, T. Graham Brown, Jimmy Hall, Johnny Taylor, and Dr. Hook.