Jim Woehrle and Michael Yonkers: Borders of My Mind Review
There aren’t many records that I love wholeheartedly and without reservation, and Michael Yonkers and Jim Woehrle’s Borders of My Mind happens to be one of them. Recorded in 1973 in Woehrle’s living room using a single bi-directional microphone, Borders is an unjustly unheard classic. It’s also lo-fi to the extreme, though the natural reverb and the occasional background noise (like a phone ringing for instance) actually give the record an incredibly warm, intimate sound that suits the thirteen tracks perfectly. To listen is to be transported to a comfortable spot on Woehrle’s living room carpet, while nearby Yonkers and Woehrle hum and guffaw, and tinker on guitar and piano respectively, and occasionally make use of whatever happens to be lying around for a percussive instrument.
The pair’s songwriting is unabashedly romantic, and Yonkers and Woehrle harmonize around each other in a manner that is both lackadaisical as well as incredibly earnest. They seem mainly focused on the ladies (some are even called out by name) and both artists have such sincere heartfelt feelings about them that it’s almost impossible to not be swept up in the mood. Most notably the epic ballad “Lovely Lady Companion” which the artists preface by making caveman grunts and shouting “let’s rock,” before launching into one of the most beautifully gentle songs about love that I have ever heard. And not to be outdone, “Elaine,” “Emily,” “Happy Ending Woman,” and “Smile Awhile for Me” are all tunes of the same caliber, some frustrated, some swooning, but each focused on the brilliant mysteries of love. And while the rest of the tunes might not be as expressly lovesick, the pair’s romanticism also extends to nostalgia, ruminations, and melancholy. And if that sounds a little bit smarmy, never fear, Yonkers and Woehrle balance out their zeal with quite a bit of goofing around.
Borders of My Mind was recently reissued by Drag City, and the once-rare-artifact is now readily available for a new generation of listeners (along with Yonkers’ Michael Lee Yonkers). Don’t sleep on a chance to hear one of the great, un-heralded artifacts of Minnesota’s music history (if you are lucky, you may even still see Michael Yonkers around town – usually in the company of deconstructed rock trio The Blind Shake).