The Time is Right for Border-Radio
By Rebecca Redshaw
No one could have predicted that the soundtrack for “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou” would win the Grammy for Album of the Year. But Kelly McCune, singer, songwriter, and spokesperson for the eclectic musical quartet Border-Radio, isn’t complaining.
“People respond to the music with total joy. They either know the music or feel they know it because it’s fundamental American music,” said McCune in a recent phone interview.
Included under the umbrella of “American music,” and in the group’s repertoire of standards and original songs, are swing tunes, folk, jazz, and cowboy music. McCune, who grew up in Oklahoma, is a classically trained musician who relishes performing the mix of styles.
“Our music really doesn’t have any boundaries. We call it a roots melting pot. Music that’s for people and about people.”
Listening to the Border-Radio Live CD is the next best thing to hearing the band in person. McCune’s song “Sad Sound” demonstrates her ability to write interesting lyrics. Her talent in delivering them with clarity is reminiscent of Patsy Cline’s.
The traditional bluegrass band stands toe to toe with the leader in level of musicality. Mike Stromberg plays guitar and sings harmony. Along with playing fiddle, banjo, and guitar Luke Halpin’s mandolin riffs are a joy to anticipate. Upright bass player Robert Staron drives the rhythm home.
Last year at the Topanga Bluegrass Festival, the original duo of McCune and Stromberg noticed Staron listening from the audience. They jammed for awhile and the duo became a trio that day. Not long thereafter, with the addition of Halpin, Border-Radio reached its quartet status.
Staron is thrilled with the band. “This is the best group I’ve played with because everyone has worked so hard honing their craft. We have good chemistry, but best of all, there are no limits. We want to play jazz, bluegrass, swing – everything.”
In a time when Americans are searching for not only comfort but substance, this group delivers both.
“Mash potatoes and meatloaf have substance,” McCune said. “They have the ingredients you need for your soul. These lyrics tell of fundamental feelings we all have looking for soul comfort. You can find it in the old lyrics and hopefully, in the music we write.”
A recent sold out performance at the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena only added to this up and coming band’s enthusiasm for performing.
Staron said, “The crowd was so into it we gave our best show ever. We’re having a great time.”