I have spent the better part of the last five or six years catching Kevin Gordon at various venues in Nashville and once in Seaside, Florida just to keep things interesting. Each time Kevin played solo with only guitar for accompaniment and I walked away impressed. He is one of the great storytellers working in American music and hearing these songs stripped down to their most bare only served to help each song resonate more clearly than before. So with great anticipation I went to see Gordon with a full band last Friday night at City Winery in Nashville, Tennessee to celebrate the release of Tilt & Shine, his amazing new record. [To read our review of Tilt & Shine, click one of these words in bold.]
Opening was the super talented Ben de la Cour. Ben played six or seven songs, most of them coming from his recently released album The High Cost of Living Strange. de la Cour has a charismatic intensity and standing alone on stage with only guitar between him and the audience you could feel the energy crackling among the crowd. Most of the songs came from the new record and stripped of the trappings of a full band, he blew everyone away with standout tracks “Tupelo” and “Guy Clark’s Fiddle”. The set was over too soon but what a great way to start an evening. [To read more about Ben de la Cour, click one of there bolded words for our interview.]
Next up was Shannon McNally who has played with, opened for and recorded with artist like Stevie Nicks, Rodney Crowell, Neil Casal, Son Volt, Charlie Sexton etc. She has one of the best voices I have heard and I was immediately captured by how strong and pure her vocals were. She took on Susanna Clark’s (Guy’s wife)”Black Haired Boy” and made it her own. “Banshee Moan” written with Rodney Crowell was one of the most powerful moments of the evening. “Now That I Know”, one of her older songs, was stripped down and reimagined to great success. Shannon finished up with an excellent rendition of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” leaving the crowd primed for Gordon to take the stage.
And take the stage he did! Backed by longtime collaborators Mark V. McMahan on guitar, Ron Eoff on bass and Joshua Hunt on drums Gordon looked to be in a good mood. Seconds later the band launches into “Fire at the End of the World”, the opener from Tilt & Shine. The guitar playing is dirty and urgent while the rhythm section lays it down. The crowd in his hand, he goes right into “The Drunkest Man in Town”, another standout from the new collection. Again, the rhythm takes it up a notch before Gordon stretches out on guitar. Having only seen solo acoustic shows I had no idea of how great of a guitar player Gordon is and the interplay with McMahan was great to hear. You just get a feeling like you are in for something when after two songs you have a permanent grin stretched across your face. “Right on Time” continues the upbeat tunes before we get to another album standout “Saint on a Chain”. Maybe my favorite song on the new album it was great to hear it live. Gordon moves almost effortlessly from swampy juke joint inflected songs to roadhouse rockers to introspective moments that never seem to restrict the flow of his live performance. The spookiness of “DeValls Bluff”, a true story about a murder in Arkansas, is even more hypnotic than the album version. “Church on Time” made me feel like I was in New Orleans watching some guys get together and jam. Each song outshines the last and I started to wonder how far he can take the crowd as he kicks into “Gloryland”. The band rips into it like a starving man to a steak, viciously relishing every bite. This is rock and roll. Not distilled and filtered until all the grit is gone but left raw, exposed and compelling for the listener. Gordon powers through “GTO” and a few other tracks before closing the show. He had a smile on his face and the band did too. To call this performance great would be an understatement. The live performance took everything you could like – the pure poetry of his lyrics, fantastic musicianship, a creative approach to several genres- and magnified it. If you get a chance to see Kevin Gordon make sure you don’t pass up a chance to see one the best artists working in American music today, you will not be disappointed. Follow Kevin Gordon’s tour and buy his new album, here. http://kg.kevingordon.net/ Check out Ben de la Cour, here. http://www.bendelacour.com/