The mysterious Tony Borders was the most prolific of the artists that Muscle Shoals producer Quin Ivy recorded – apart of course from the great Percy Sledge. And it is on those sessions that Borders’ reputation as a first class southern soulman is based. A further tribute to his abilities is the fact the Ivy was able to lease out so much of his product.
His early work is, frankly, not up to that exalted standard. I like the blues based Can’t Stand To See You Cry, with it’s plodding piano, and tasteful guitar fills. This release was later put out again by Bill Hall from his Texas base, and that state is a strong possible location for both Borders and the Delta 45. Hall’s other Borders 45s are generally disappointing – too straight country for my taste. The version of “Get Yourself Another Man” is ruined by the pop chorus and “Soft Wind Soft Voice” suffers in a similar fashion. The Nashville cut TCF single is listenable, as is “Stay By My Side” but the only one really worth your money is the reissue of the Delta side, as the flip “You Are My Treasure” at least allows Borders to put some soul into his singing.
In direct contrast, every single he cut at Muscle Shoals is essential to any self-respecting southern soul fan. You Better Believe It is a demonstration of just how to cut slow country soul, a perfect blend of the two styles, with Borders voice rising tp proclaim his love above horns and a female chorus. That the playing of the Sheffield, AL rhythm regulars is superb doesn’t need saying. Cheaters Never Win may even be that touch better – it’s a moot point whether the strings add anything to the emotional impact. “Love And A Friend” does it’s best to maintain the standard but just fails.
After these ballads Borders went on to cut mainly more uptempo material for some reason, but sounded just at home, showing a fine sense of swing timing. I Met Her In Church is first class, as is the socially aware “Mix And Mingle”, and “Promise To Myself” is a fine beat ballad. I feel that “For My Woman’s Love” is slightly overblown, but “Please Don’t Break My Heart” woks very well, despite sounding a little bit “raw” and in need of a little re-mixing for the drums.
Of the unissued material from this period, the fine funky “Don’t Let Go” and the demonstrative “Corn Bread Woman” show Borders at his vocal best. But the cream cut is probably the gentle country soul ballad “A Nice Place To Visit” with tasteful horns and warm strings reinforcing the mood.
Sadly, for whatever reason, after Quin Ivy threw in the towel Borders didn't record again.
Counting on you / Can't
stand to see you cry ~ DELTA 1902 (1961)
It'll be my song / Dreamers prayer ~ HALL-WAY / SMASH 1817 (1963)
Soft wind soft voice / Pass the word ~ HALL 1918 (1963)
Bit by bit / Get yourself another man ~ HALL 1921 (1964)
Can't stand to see you cry / You are my treasure ~ HALL 1926 (1964)
Loves been good to me / Stay by my side ~ TCF / HALL 125 (1966)
You better believe it / What kind of spell ~ SOUTH CAMP 7009 (1967)
Cheaters never win / Love and a friend ~ REVUE 11025 (1968)
I met her in church / What kind of spell ~ REVUE 11040 (1969)
Polly wolly / Gentle on my mind ~ REVUE 11054 (1969)
You better believe it / Lonely weekend ~ UNI 55180 (1969)
For my woman's love / Please don't break my heart ~ QUINVY 001/002 (1970)
Promise to myself / Mix & mingle ~ QUINVY 7101 (1970)
Bordering on love ~ BRYLEN LP 4521 (1982)
1. The Brylen LP contained some of his Hall, Hallway and Hall/TCF sides,
plus Don't make me lonely, Hold on a little longer, Found a new lover, This
2. The Charly UK series of 5 LPs covering the South Camp/Quinvy stories included all his Geenlite/Revue/Uni and Quinvy sides plus the following unissued titles cut at the Quinvy studios ~ A nice place to visit, Headman, Don’t let go, High on the hog, Cornbread woman, Until it’s time for me to go.
3. The Charly LPs sometimes have different mixes/takes to the issued 45s - often from stereo tapes.
Thanks to Martin Goggin for the photo and to Pete Nickols for the fascinating ads.