With the release of Tilt & Shine (Crowville Records) Kevin Gordon once again proves why he is one of the most interesting artists on the Americana scene. Born and raised in Louisiana, he attended the University of Iowa Writers Workshop where he received a master’s degree in poetry before moving to Nashville to ply his trade as a songwriter. Each of these pivotal times influence his work as easily as the next. I am never sure if I am listening to a poet who sings, a singer who writes poetry, or something else entirely. This is not to be construed as a negative thing as the end result is a singer songwriter who knows how to keep his listener on their toes, never taking the easiest route but delivering something new and enticing with every song.
Produced by longtime collaborator Joe McMahan (his producer since 2000’s Down to the Well) Tilt & Shine is a rollicking good time. The muddy swamp stomp of the opening track “Fire at the End of the World” sets the tone. Gordon tells the story of small minded, small town kids who only want to get high and watch the fires at the refinery at the end of town without a sense of irony or condemnation for not wanting more out of life. You get the feeling that he knows these people only too well. My favorite vocal on the album is “Saint on a Chain.” This one just has a different feel and you find yourself really listening to the words because Gordon’s delivery invites you in and holds you there. The pulsing guitar work and subtle keys meld together and leave us with one of the albums true stand out tracks. The prison blues of “One Road Out (Angola Rodeo Blues)” with its gritty juke joint blues guitar and sparse drumming compliment the subject matter perfectly.
Not sure it’s a rule but I think you have to love a song that starts out with “If I had a rocket ship and a Gatling gun.” Gordon paints pictures with his words and this song is just another example of how talented he is at capturing an emotion so perfectly. “Gatling Gun” with Aaron Lee Tasjan on backing vocals has some nice slide guitar playing underneath this tale of a person who cannot get someone out of their system no matter how hard they try. The vocals are subdued and wistful as the subject of the song is mournful for something they can no longer have. “Right on Time” is an upbeat rocker and I imagine it will be turned up to 11 when Gordon and his band play it live. “DeValls Bluff” is the perfect telling of an ex-con with murderous intent. Gordon show off his lyrical genius again and with lyrics like “I try to stay on the straight but like how that out-of-state Escalade like a clean blade shines.” Damn that’s a strong moment. You can imagine yourself as the former convict lurking in the shadows and seeing something so irresistible that killing a man is the only way to satisfy the urge. McMahan continues his impressive guitar work accompanied by Paul Griffith’s singularly paced percussion, both adding nicely to the darkness of the tale. “Rest Your Head” with just vocals and acoustic guitar is as beautiful a song as the collection has to offer while “Drunkest Man in Town” and “Get Together” help close out the album on more of a rock & roll note.
Tilt & Shine is an impressive effort, finding its place alongside 2015’s Long Gone Time and 2012’s Gloryland. Gordon delivers another excellent album with tracks that bounce from delta blues, to boogie based road house rockers to introspective moments where he draws you into his world. I am not sure there is a better songwriter working today and Tilt & Shine goes a long way in cementing Gordon’s already stellar reputation. Get yours right here: http://kg.kevingordon.net/