Photo: Jay Kennedy

John Fusco’s third album, Borderlands, produced by George Walker Petit, takes the listener on a journey with every song. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, Fusco is a storyteller – and a screenwriter at that – perhaps best known for “Young Guns,” the guitar-lover staple “Crossroads” and most recently “Marco Polo” on Netflix. Each song can stand alone as a short film. You can visualize the characters and escape into the mood and groove of the American West, the Southwest in particular (hence the album’s title).

Fusco may be a storyteller, but he’s also done a lot of living, playing keys with blues bands and trying to make a go of it at a young age, touring the south and playing at dirty nightclubs on the wrong side of town. He’s returning to his roots with Borderlands, and he does so by also paying tribute to his influences. Listening to tracks such as “Bad Luck Rides Shotgun” and “Cyanide Whiskey,” it’s no wonder why Fusco recently performed a Greg Allman tribute in Essex, Vermont (not far from Petitjazz Studio, where the album was recorded). The 7-minute slow blues “Cyanide” is my personal favorite on the album. The Allman Brothers influence is unmistakable and tasteful. It reminds me a little of “Stormy Monday,” and I credit this to Fusco’s gritty vocals and Matthew Backer’s captivating, complimentary slide work.

Americana Highways

Over the decades Fusco let too many songs slip through his fingers, not having had the time to work on them (he has written more than 15 major movies and TV shows since Crossroads). Now he started to set them down, plumbing a lifetime of experiences and memories for a collection as sweeping in scope and heartfelt in detail as any of his screenplays or novels.

“Early on in my writing career, the industry tried to pigeonhole me as the Western Americana guy. I learned, over time, to never let a story get trapped in a genre box as long as the DNA is rooted in your true voice. That’s how I feel about my music. It all comes out of blues and gospel, but some of the stories and themes find a style that even takes me by surprise; they find a music engine that crosses the borders and breaks out of any box. The story finds the right music to carry it. For me, story is always the compass.”