Americana duo Skin & Bones feel as though they’ve spent their fair share of time out in the wilderness. On “Northern Lights,” the first single from their new album Shadowboxing (due out June 15), is a gentle and breezy toe-tapper that begs you to hum along. Though Skin & Bones only consists of vocalist-guitarist Taylor Borsuk and violinist Peter Blackwelder, there’s a hearty warmth to their interplay that fills “Northern Lights” — and Shadowboxing as a whole for that matter—without being bogged down with unnecessary instrumentation.
There’s a dreamy quality to Borsuk’s lyricism on “Northern Lights” that suggests a getaway up north to see the alluring Aurora Borealis. His darkened vocals shine as he offers up camping, dancing, and a lot of stargazing. Blackwelder’s elegant violin streams across the sky while an accompanying pedal steel swirls with a country tinge. There’s a balance of rich earthiness while maintaining a clean, crisp quality.
“‘Northern Lights’ is one of the lighter songs on the record,” Borsuk tells Wide Open Country. “I was inspired by my girlfriend, who mentioned she had always dreamed about seeing the Northern Lights someday.”
The California-based Skin & Bones recorded Shadowboxing at Nashville studio The Bomb Shelter. After self-producing a couple of EPs in recent years (Ghost in This Town and Wait No More), Borsuk and Blackwelder enlisted the Jon Estes (John Paul White, Ben Sollee, Steelism) at the producing helm while Andrija Tokic (The Alabama Shakes, Langhorne Slim, Hurray for the Riff Raff) mixed the full-length record.
“We made the decision to record to analog, mainly because I love how human it is with all of its raw imperfections and warmth,” says Borsuk. “We also cut all the bed tracks live, which was a blast. We really got to feel the energy and feed off of each other.”
That tender warmth careens through Shadowboxing with added textures and punches of passionate gritty vocals. With Estes at their side, the duo navigates the 11 tracks with ease often knowing just what’s needed to be added or taken away. While certainly crafted around the duo’s instruments and with qualities that feel like a bare-bones approach, Shadowboxing never feels thin or lightweight.
Borsuk and Blackwelder have an uncanny chemistry and balance that bobs and weaves. When one cuts loose for a raw and energetic movement in the spotlight, the other falls back and holds down the fort. There’s a healthy comfort that breathes and stretches in Skin & Bones that feels lived in. That discipline creates a dynamic sonic palette where every bit of instrumentation feels necessary and a focal point.