The music of New Mexico-based singer-songwriter Boris McCutcheon is rooted in country and traditional folk and blues songs, but has long defied even those genres. McCutcheon (b. 1969) grew up in rural Holliston, Massachusetts and in the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Cape Cod. Before entering the music industry, McCutcheon attended Marlboro College in Vermont where he studied creative writing. He also attended the prestigious Farm and Garden Program at UC Santa Cruz, where he learned practical organic farming. Before leaving New England for California, McCutcheon had encountered the legendary folk musicologist and mandolin player Ralph Rinzler, who made a deep impression on him. At that time, McCutcheon was discovering his identity as a songwriter and guitarist.
On a road trip across the West, McCutcheon also discovered New Mexico. But he left the West at the end of 20th century and returned to the East Coast to launch his music career. He assembled a roots rock band, and performed his first gig at the Captain Kidd in Woods Hole, MA, and quickly moved into the prestigious folk-roots scene in Boston. He became a regular, appearing on the stages of Club Passim, the Lizard Lounge, the Middle East, and the Cantab. McCutcheon released his first album Mother Ditch (2001) which was produced and engineered by Pete Weiss (Aimee Mann, Vapors of Morphine). Both press and fans took notice of his unique songs, voice, and arrangements (with tuba, Moog, Wurlitzer, megaphone), and he garnered an instant (if small) fan base on both coasts.
He released his sophomore album When We Were Big (2003) produced and engineered by Craig Schumacher (Calexico, Neko Case) at Wavelab Studios in Arizona and won Best Male Singer/Songwriter from the Boston Music Awards the following year. McCutcheon’s band, Boris & the Salt Licks, began to tour through Holland, Belgium and Germany each year and found a home in the LDM stables alongside other favorite artists including Greg Trooper, Rod Picott, Frazey Ford, Dayna Kurtz and many others.
With a cult hero reputation in Europe, and selling out large and small venues, McCutcheon moved to New Mexico, and made a permanent home there. He consolidated his core band, and with the Salt Licks (Brett Davis, Susan Holmes, Kevin Zoernig, Paul Groetzinger) began recording at Santa Fe’s Frogville Studios, a boutique indie house for alternative and traditional Americana music.
The first album out of Frogville by Boris & The Salt Licks was Cactusman vs. The Blue Demon (2006). The album was produced and mixed by Boris and piano savant Kevin Zoernig, whose keyboard arrangements brought some intensive jazzy improvisations to McCutcheon’s unique compositions. Cactusman debuted at #1 on the Euro Americana Chart, and stayed in the top ten for more than six months. On the other European chart of note, Americana & Roots Top 13, based on airplay, internet, sales and downloads, every one of McCutcheon’s albums has entered and stayed in the top ten. After Cactusman, McCutcheon and the Salt Licks were in demand all around the uptown and downtown theatres, bars and breweries of New Mexico.
McCutcheon lived off-the-grid near Ojo Sarco with a mile marker as an address, started a farm and a family with his wife, Laura McInerney. In this period, every gig started with an hour-long drive along the high road to Taos, through canyons and cone shaped hills, and finally to the state road and through the Carson National Forest to reach a highway. During the years from 2006- 2012, McCutcheon released his “off-the-grid trilogy:” Bad Road, Good People (2008), The Wheel of Life (2010), and the blockbuster finale Might Crash! (2013). In addition to these, he made a couple of praised compilation albums, a live album from the Netherlands, an EP, a music video, and a bootleg acoustic solo album of Townes Van Zandt cover songs, recorded from the creaky car seat that served as the only chair in the shed. At the 2007 NM State Fair, McCutcheon won the state’s coveted Best Singer Songwriter award.
Commercially, he has had a number of his songs licensed as both source music and feature cues on television and radio dramas. NPR’s Click and Clack (Car Talk) couldn’t stop laughing and playing his song “Pilgrim” – about a man’s dying old truck. The Peabody-winning and very hip Moth Radio Hour just recently licensed “Choppin’ Wood” - McCutcheon’s definitive, elegant song off his very first album. From Saving Grace to Hulu’s Shut Eye, and many in between, television has been a home for his music.
In live performance, McCutcheon, with or without a backing band, has been on just about every competitive festival stage and showcase that the music business offers to young or mature, unique or familiar, traditional or alternative songwriters: SXSW, The Moab Folk Festival, AmericanaFest, Folk Alliance, Mountain Stage and barns and concerts all over this country. In the Netherlands, McCutcheon has made appearances at the top three Americana festivals: Roots of Heaven, Take Root, and Blue Highways. From the East Austin honky-tonk The White Horse to Lincoln Center, McCutcheon’s work continues to please audiences. When you think he can’t outdo his last album, out comes a new and different and better one. I’m Here Let Me In (2017) is his first album without the Salt Licks band in over a decade. Pre-release reviews are as positive as any in his career to date.
In 2017-2018 Boris started a new project/band/duo with Bard Edrington called “High On The Hog” which was shortened to HOTH Brothers by DJ Susan Dilger. HOTH Brothers recorded an album with Sarah Ferrell the bass player and original member of Three String Bale, and drummer Greg Williams, both from Albuquerque. This album in 2019 won Album of the Year at the New Mexico Music Awards. The HOTH Brothers released a second album Tell Me How You Feel in 2021 near the end of the pandemic. The opening track song, “Judith” won Best Folk Song of the Year at the New Mexico music awards.
In 2022, Boris created a true solo album in his shed called, Pocket Hang Glider. In this collection he played all instruments and mixed it entirely as an experiment.
Boris has moved on from the HOTH Brothers because he relocated to Beijing, China for a few years.