Review : Kevin Gordon - Gloryland
Rolling StoneGreat songwriters are a dime a dozen in Nashville, but Kevin Gordon is an anomaly: a recovering poet who is better at selling outsider art than country hits, though Keith Richards and Levon Helm have sung his songs. The centerpiece here, "Colfax/Step in Time," is a slow-burning 10-minute slice of life about a kid in the desegregated South, with Gordon's talking-blues-meets-codeine-rap flow remembering his marching-band days and slyly rhyming "Kool and the Gang" and "Ku Klux Klan." Meanwhile, the title track parses religious fervor in terms of politicians and human bombs. But the smarts on Gloryland never undercut the roots-rock rush. Dude's a juke-joint professor emeritus.
All musicHe doesn't release albums often, this is his first in seven years, but when Southern poet/singer/songwriter/guitarist Kevin Gordon does amass enough material for a full-length disc, it's not only substantial in bulk -- this one runs nearly an hour -- but it's filled with quality music that justifies the obvious care and craft he dedicated to the project, and which can't be rushed. The melodies are solid but he applies considerable effort to the lyrics for Gloryland. They are plentiful and drive at least two story songs, in many ways similar to how Dylan used words to push the groove during his Highway 61 period, although without the stream of consciousness non-sequiturs of say, "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream." That's especially true on the ten-minute high school band reminiscence of "Colfax/Step in Time" that describes in exquisite detail what seems to be his own coming of age. It's also the oil that motors "Bus to Shreveport," about attending a ZZ Top concert that ends up in a violent street fight after the show. In between, Gordon crafts some lovely ballads such as "Pecolia's Star," a song about folk artist/quiltmaker Pecolia Walker. ...full text
American SongwriterGloryland, Gordon’s first album since 2005, serves as a reminder to what a wonderful writer he is. There’s a powerful literary quality to his songs (he’s a published poet) that often feels like short stories brought to life with music. The two standout tracks, “Colfax/Step In Time” and “Bus To Shreveport,” are excellent examples of Southern fiction. The former, which runs over 10 minutes, recalls Gordon’s time in a Southern high school marching band, which was led by a black man. The tune turns from colorful memories to something more serious when the Klan arrives (“in their white dunce caps”) with a chilling effect. “Bus To Shreveport,” another coming-of-age tale, concerns a wild roadtrip, when at age 12 he went to go see a ZZ Top concert (“at the worst sounding arena in the whole United States”) with his uncle Randy and his uncle’s buddy Hank. Again, the story takes a dangerous turn with Hank getting beaten up by several Latino guys until Randy scares them off with a pistol.
This disc is populated with vivid tales that Gordon delivers with a dark twist. “Side of the Road” starts with a simple childhood memory of seeing a field of white cotton but ends up taking the listener to the perilous roadsides of war-torn regions like Baghdad and Basra. “Trying To Get To Memphis” floats along on an easy soulful groove that masks the song’s underlying modern day dilemma – can you trust the stranger who comes to your door with a hard-luck story? Gordon, with some regrets, sides with the neighborhood watch captain’s more fearful advice over Jesus’ sense of altruism....full text
NY TimesIt remains to be seen whether the album will put him on a bigger map commercially, but Mr. Gordon’s music is both a distinctive slice of the Nashville scene far from the country mainstream and a window onto the DIY paths that increasingly come with a music career.
The albums drew critical praise, and his successes include being covered by Keith Richards, having his music used on HBO’s “True Blood” and doing a duet with Ms. Williams on his song “Down to the Well.” Ms. Williams, whose father is a poet and who met Mr. Gordon through Mr. Ramsey, considers herself a fan and a kindred spirit.
It is unlikely that “Gloryland” will turn his career arc into Adele’s — or Leonard Cohen’s, for that matter. But he figures he’s doing what he wants, and there are ways to make it work, so like Mr. Minifield, he’s staring straight ahead and glad to be marching into that unknown future....full text
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- 1. Gloryland
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