In fall 2021, Sarah Borges and her band took to the Midwest for a handful of special live shows for her newest album, Together Alone. For Borges, who’s been prominent on the Americana scene for nearly 20 years, it was an emotional return to the stage for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. “The nature of songs on the album are about my pandemic experience and I found a lot of people want to share theirs too,” she says. Borges will be coming to Madison on July 7 to play a show at Kiki’s House of Righteous Music.

With Together Alone, the Boston-based artist is at her most candid and vulnerable yet. Borges collaborated closely with her friend and mentor Eric “Roscoe” Ambel to bring the album together. A producer and fellow musician who’s played with bands like Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Steve Earle & the Dukes, Ambel empowered Borges to push herself creatively. 

“When we started making a record I didn’t know if anyone would hear it or if we were just making a record for ourselves,” Borges says. “I was less careful with what I said and as a result, more honest.”

Honesty has never been something Borges has shied away from in her music, however. She’s always had a knack for finding connection with her audience through candid lyrics that touch on everything from relationships to divorce to sobriety — and with her latest album, the pandemic.

For Borges, work on what would become Together Alone began early during 2020, the summer of lockdown. She recorded a sample of an acoustic guitar track she’d been working on and sent it to Ambel. Ambel added a layer of drums on top of the guitar, and a song started to take shape. “From the first song we knew we were making a record, so we took it step by step,” Borges remembers. Although the prospect of making an album remotely presented a new set of challenges, Borges and Ambel got creative. “Eric said, ‘Let’s make a MacGyver-style album.’”

Borges converted her bedroom closet into a makeshift studio, using the soundproofing inside to record vocals and guitar tracks into her iPhone. Once she’d sent it on to Ambel, he’d create a drum track to match the tempo. Then, Ambel pored over his Rolodex of musicians to decide who could play what on the track, and whether they could record from home. 

Among those, The Bottle Rockets bassist Keith Voegele and current Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Keith Christopher both lent their talents to the recording process. Once recording of the individual instruments was complete, the challenge fell on Ambel to make the tracks sound like they were recorded in the same room, all of one piece. MacGyver would be proud indeed.

Thematically, the pandemic dominates Together Alone. Borges describes the instrumentation as a little bit wistful, and a little bit “breaking free from the chains.”

“There was this spirit that we were all in this together and we’re all working together towards this common goal,” Borges says. “There was team spirit even though we were all separated.”

Standout track “She’s A Trucker” not only serves as one of the rare trucker songs from a female perspective, but it’s also pulled from Borges’ pandemic experience. During lockdown, she took a job driving as an airport courier, which she’s been doing ever since. Eventually, she and Ambel realized it was a ripe ground for a song. The result is a new trucker anthem both ripped from the headlines and infused with “tidbits of my own experience,” she says.

The title track, which serves as the album’s closer, is one of the album’s strongest. A slow ballad about being separated from a loved one, it taps into an acute sense of longing that the pandemic forced many to acclimate to. Unlike typical high-energy closers, “Together Alone” has also become the go-to closer for Borges’ live shows. “Sometimes I get to the end of the song, and I feel like I might cry,” she says.

It’s the same emotional connection she felt when she returned to the stage in fall 2021. “It’s really made me understand that people are with us in a way I didn’t know before the pandemic,” she says. 

“I want everyone to feel like they’re at a party and I’m playing DJ,” Borges says. “I want people to have a good time. And if they don’t, we’re probably doing something wrong.”

This concert is sold out; to learn about future concerts at Kiki’s House of Righteous Music, email

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