Zak Borden

Zak Borden


Zak is a well-traveled American roots music performer out of Portland, OR. Equal parts picker, singer and songwriter, his voice has a nearly 3 octave range range from a rumbling bass to a belting bluegrassy tenor. His flatpicking on mandolin and guitar is groove heavy and genre-bending.


Zak Borden is a picker, songwriter and singer of American roots music. He is triple threat on guitar, mandolin and vocals and just damn well loves to write songs. His voice plunges from a high tenor to a rumbling baritone/bass that draws on sources from the deep and broad American musical experiment. Zak has clocked tens of thousands of road miles in the US and Europe and worked with leading purveyors of traditional and contemporary acoustic music. He toured, recorded with and co-produced roots-rocker Casey Neill, worked with songwriters Willy Mason and Rachel Harrington, Bluegrass Grammy nominee Kate MacKenzie, Late great fiddle god Johnny Cunningham, and enjoyed cameo appearances with everyone from L.A.�s The Watson Twins to Northhamtons�s Tracy Grammer. Gaining a rep as a consummate session player, he has in the last year, nearly doubled his discography. Zak has appeared on albums that also feature, among others, Tim O�Brien, Danny Barnes, Darol Anger, Eyvind Kang, Andy Statman, and the master bassist/cellist Buell Neidlinger, the latter having hired Zak for several projects. Lately, he has been touring extensively in the U.S. and across Europe as a duo with Americana chanteuse Rachel Harrington.

Zak was born amidst the folk music scare in Cambridge, Mass where he was exposed to all kinds of roots music. His uncle played in New Mexico's Last Mile Ramblers (with Junior Brown). His sister sings Hank tunes and picks the banjo, a cousin that tours the world rockin', His grandfather built guitars and fiddles and his songwriting aunt worked and played at the renowned Longview Recording Studio. But things became critical at 16, when one midnight in July he witnessed two members of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys playing on the other words...Zak had no choice.

Zak is also a passionate and sought after instructor having taught for 15 yrs at workshops and festivals including a faculty spot at The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes.



Zak Borden
The Remedy Sessions
Rubberball Records p 2009
Also features: Johnny Cunningham, Chris Funk, Casey Neill more…

Zak Borden
Whistles & Steam
Tradical Records p 1999

With Rachel Harrington:

Rachel Harrington & Zak Borden
In The Woods: Live in the Netherlands
Skinny Dennis p 2009

City of Refuge (Skinny Dennis, 2008)
Also features: Tim O’Brien, Mike Grigoni, Pieta Brown more…

The Bootlegger’s Daughter (Skinny Dennis, 2007)
Also features: Danny Barnes, John Reischman, Ruthie Dornfeld, more…

With Willy Mason

Live at the Showbox (Grandma’s Basement 2007)
Also features: Nina Violet, Matt Weiner, Mike Grigoni

If The Ocean Gets Rough (Virgin/EMI 2006)
Also features: Roseanne Cash, J.D. Foster, Colin Ruel, Nina Violet more….

With Casey Neill

Brooklyn Bridge (In Music We Trust, 2007)
Also features: Members of Decemberists, ‘Roscoe’ Ambel, Erin McKeown, John Wesley Harding and more…

The Casey Neill Trio
Portland West (Appleseed Recordings, 2001)
Also features: Hanz Araki

The Casey Neill Trio
Skree (Appleseed Records. 1999)
Also features: Danny Barnes, Anthea Lawrence, Nova Devonie

The Songs of Pete Seeger:
Where Have All the Flowers Gone Vol 1
(Appleseed Recordings, 1998)
Zak plays mandolin on track with Casey Neill, Martin Hayes


Jenee Halstead
The River Grace (2008)
Also features: Steve Moore (Bright Eyes, Laura Veirs), Mike Grigoni

Holly O’Reilly
Gifts and Burdens (Cake Records, 2007)

Darren Smith
Last Drive (Crafty Records, 2006)
Also features: Dan Tyack, Nova Devonie, others


Major Motion Picture:
Feast of Love (Lakeshore Records, 2007)
with Greg Kinnear and Morgan Freeman. Various Artists: Darren Smith, M. Ward, The Frames, Corrine Bailey Rae, others
Zak plays mandolin

Short Films:

"The River Show"
Trinity River Audubon Center, 2007
Dallas, Texas
Produced by Peace River Studios

"Chihuily at Kew", 2005
Played and composed
Produced by Hanz Araki

Set List

Typical Solo or band show: 2 45-50 minute sets

Set list usually comprised of two thirds original songs (and a few instrumentals) and 1/3 covers and traditional songs.

Sample Set List:

Whistles and Steam (Original)
Hazel (Original)
November in Vegas (Original)
Blue and Lonesome (H. Williams/B. Monroe)
Havana Cigar (Jemima James)
Fall River (Original Newgrassy Instrumental)
Broken Bicycles (Tom Waits)
Mile Marker 23 (Original)
Accidents Will Happen (Elvis Costello)
Greener Side (Original)
Heartbreak Holiday (Original)
Poplar Waltz (Original Instrumental)