Great 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.
For several years, the highlight of any Kevin Gordon show would occur when he performed “Colfax.” This self-penned tune about playing trumpet in the high school marching band under the tutelage of a black-skinned man in the South when the Ku Klux Klan pleasantly joins the spectators brims with sexual and racial tensions. Gordon tackles the issues of youth, small town life, and the promise of a better future with telling details that convincingly convey the time and place of past events as if they really happened to him. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t – it doesn’t really matter.
He 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.
Kevin GordonGlorylandCrowville CollectiveRating: Gloryland, 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.