Artist: Kevin Gordon
Album: Long Gone Time
Label: Crowville Media
Release Date: 09/04/2015
When I think about Kevin Gordon, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a great bluesman (who will remain nameless) several years ago when Robert Cray was big on the radio. “He just got a push, you know?” The indication was that Cray was not necessarily better than many of his peers– he just got the right set of breaks. So why does Kevin Gordon, one of our most literate singer-songwriters, struggle in this business when someone like Jason Isbell, as just one example, is immensely successful? No one in the past decade has written a song as good, or as memorable, as “Colfax” from Gordon’s last effort, Gloryland. Yet Gordon remains an undisclosed treasure to far too many. This Louisiana themed album doesn’t have that one monster song, but the storytelling and the vibe are equally compelling. It’s as if Gordon was programming a radio show – the album starts out with electric tunes, then shifts to a string of highly descriptive acoustic tunes in the middle, ending on the electric side again.
Gordon’s Master’s Degree in Poetry from the University of Iowa’s famed Writers’ Workshop shows through continually, as does his bluesy guitar playing, nurtured by early stints in Bo Ramsey’s band. Bo’s distinctive resonator sound is present on the personal, rather melancholy “Walking On The Levee.” Additional electric guitar contributions come from Gordon’s producer/guitarist Joe V. McMahan for classic rock n roll riffs on “GTO” and the swampy CCR-like “Church On Time.” Gordon never strays too far from the blues and begins with a shuffle in “All In The Mystery.” These aside, the strength of the album lies in the acoustic songs which demand careful listening. Beginning with “Letter To Shreveport,” Gordon paints the pre-Katrina South with cinematic detail at a very relaxed, “I’m going to let this story unfold slowly” pace. Gordon mourns the loss of hearing Johnny Horton on the radio, talks about a regionally popular country singer in “Goodbye Brownie Ford,” and sentimentally describes small-town life in “Crowville.” The loss of American optimism post-Katrina is best typified in “Shotgun Behind the Door.” He seems to state his own creed, as in two of these songs he says, “Don’t let ‘em mess with your music/Keep it real/Keep it free.” Gordon is terrific with words, and you may need to listen several times to appreciate the imagery which can be as subtle as it is vivid. That’s the magic of Kevin Gordon.