In ‘GLORYLAND' (his first release of new music since 2005’s 'o Come Look at the Burning), Kevin Gordon has once again proved himself a master at taking characters and situations from his life (some distant, some not so), and merging them into a personal musical vision. A personal vision, thankfully, in which he has allowed us access to. You can call it rock and roll...Americana, folk blues: it simply defies pigeon-holing. He has a great ability and talent to make the listener feel involved and to care, both lyrically and through the music, which is not an easy thing to do. Gordon, somehow, makes it seems effortless.
Ably assisted by right hand man producer/musician Joe McMahan, Gordon has collected a set of songs that transform the listener into his world. His rough-hewn, southern soul voice melds with a guitar sound that is often muddy and majestic within the same chord or riff. A few tracks of note:
The blues infused groove of the title track, 'Gloryland,' is a song that not so much revels in, but simply states a self-satisfaction in having accomplished what one has set out to do, despite naysayers and heavily negative odds.
Then there is the brutal sound of and tale in 'Tearing It Down,' in which at one point, a simple guitar note that purposely sounds out of tune, is used to bring the song full circle.
In 'Black Dog,' he articulates the changes, trials and downfalls of a place you live (in this case Gordon's own neighborhood, although it could be your own). It makes you feel the wind of the helicopters that fly over your/his house.
The haunting beauty of 'Pecolias’s Star' is steeped in trandescent imagery, and 'Trying to Get to Memphis', the tale of a modern day itinerant (hobo?), with such a soulful, R&B melody that it makes you wonder if it isn’t an old Stax song brought to life.
The centerpiece of GLORYLAND is 'Colfax,' an important song and artistic piece on many levels: a mini-movie, as Gordon himself has described it. It is a folk song in the grandest of traditions, in which an adult Gordon reminisces about a younger version of himself during an episode of his Junior High school marching band days. They are memories which evoke themes of hope, hormones, fears and astonishment. These are visions so powerfully delivered (both lyrically and musically) that after the song ends over 10 minutes later, the listener has lost total track of time, for they have been absorbed in the tale, and are ready to listen to (and re-live) again. Much has been written about ‘Colfax’, all correct...all dead-on. This song just needs to be heard.
'Another Doo-Dah Day In Dixieland' is a line that is almost tossed off, almost buried. A powerful lyric that both haunts and at the same time establishes some kind of line being personally drawn by the narrator. It does not demand that you take sides, but rather gives you the choice.
The cascade of musical power that accompanies the ending salvos of 'Straight Ahead...Straight On,' is a musical and chorale juggernaut that defies anyone to get in its way, and yet it also allows and invites you to follow along.
And herein lies my problem with writing about Gordon and his art, and in this instance 'GLORYLAND' in particular. His songs reach into you so deeply that you almost feel it a disservice to him and those you are trying to reach that you have only briefly touched on them.
For those who are familiar with Kevin Gordon's previous work, 'GLORYLAND’ stands as a testament to how powerful an artist he is. It reaffirms what we already know. For others, for whom this will be an introduction, 'Gloryland' will serve notice. They will immediately want to take stock of his past catalog and discover Gordons land.