Borderlobo Live

The making of Zabala: Episode 14 - Borderlobo

There’s one thing I’ve always envied the bands for: the goals, efforts and achievements of a band are shared. The life of a singer-songwriter is instead often lonely, even though - to me -  music has always been about sharing. When I’m playing a gig and I see someone in the audience holding an instrument, I’ll certainly find a way to get them on stage. Which happens also when I’m recording an album. It's like a big party, a dinner where you can invite all your friends over. That’s how a stellar cast of international musicians has miraculously been put together for my new record.  However, I was really missing being in a band so Borderlobo was born last year, at a time when the idea of ​​finishing this album was a long way off. Some of my songs ended up in the Borderlobo repertoire along with covers by Los Lobos and Fabrizio De Andrè, revisited in tex mex sauce.

I am not the Borderlobo frontman. Alex Kid Gariazzo, who’s a beast at guitar, also sings, sometimes.  I've known him for many years. I remember one of my very first concerts, at the Mambo in Piateda, in the Valtellina area, with Alex and Davide Buffoli. Alex was already a shockingly good guitarist and played with the Treves Blues Band. He carried the important legacy of guitarists like Paolo Bonfanti and Gnola. They called him “Kid” because he was a young, prodigy kid. He’s still got that kid look, especially when he smiles and  bursts with joy each time he plays. And in spite of the many experiences he has had, like playing at the Circus Maximus in Rome as opening act for Bruce Springsteen and the Counting Crows, he’s not jaded at all and has still got  that fresh enthusiasm. Alex is one of  those musicians and friends who have been closest to me in the recent times and our friendship was cemented  also thanks to Borderlobo in which we have included Angie, his partner and an amazing bassist. Angie plays in the song Se Vedessi la Baia Ora, together with Alex and David Bromberg on the slide. The Borderlobo drummer is the great Max Malavasi who plays percussion on Gabriela Y Chava Moreno in a way that makes you feel in a Mexican cantina by the Rio Grande. "I played the heavy artillery. Glasses, spoons, and I smashed a  glass bottle”, he said. I have been working with Max for many years. He has performed with many of the songwriters I have brought to Italy. He is a pillar of Bocephus King's band and I am proud of having taken part to the Sanremo Tenco Award with him, just as I am very proud of Max's collaborations with Carrie Rodriguez, Larry Campbell, James Maddock. On my record, all of them are like streams joining and flowing together.   

To play tex mex music you need an  accordion and I am lucky enough to know one of the greatest of all: Flaviano Braga. He’s also a friend. We have been playing together for a lifetime and shared the first gigs away from home. I particularly remember those concerts on the Michelangelo Square ramps in Florence and in a vineyard on the Langhe hills, in the Piedmont region. At the time, Flaviano was already top notch. He was touring Japan with a Flamenco company. In spite of being very busy playing, he never quit his job. Every morning he wakes up at dawn to go and clean the streets.  This is one of the many romantic aspects that makes him even more special, because he really could play with just anyone, at any level. On my record, Flaviano plays in the song C’è in which his accordion embroiders a riff together with the horn section. This is one of the most spirited and  cheerful songs on the CD. On  the pedal steel guitar, dobro and mandolin we’ve got Paolo Ercoli, another essential travel companion in the recent years. We met for the first time at a Kevin Welch concert and we started playing together straight away. Paolo, with his American style, proved to be above all the perfect partner for many songwriters I brought to Italy. Paolo used to work as a concierge in a luxury hotel in Milan. One day he called me and asked: "Andrea, if I quit tomorrow will you find me enough concerts so I can support myself?"

“Paolo, don't do it! I will try to make you play as much as possible, but don't do it!”, was my answer.

He had actually already quit. The path of the musician is not easy, but - certainly - Paolo has lived incredible experiences over the years. He is one of the best and most consummate musicians on these American instruments that very few can play in Italy. He’s a sort of dobro ambassador, instrument with  he plays a beautiful solo on C'è outro. In Maya dei Girasoli he plays the pedal steel.

Another pillar of the band is our trumpeter Raffaele Kohler, but I will talk about him in the next few days, in an episode entirely dedicated to him.


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