Kevin Gordon doesn’t fit your average pigeonhole. A first-rate singer/songwriter, he melds imagery-laden lyrics with melodies that range from rock and roll to soulful blues driven tunes that, together, paint a gritty portrait of small town life. He calls his style indie-swamp.
Kevin Gordon is coming to Myrtle Beach for an August 14 show, courtesy of music organization South By Southeast. This is chance to experience a gifted songwriter – up close and personal.
Born in Shreveport, La., Kevin Gordon grew up in nearby Monroe. Even as a kid, he was into music.
“Luckily my parents were into some pretty cool music, like Ray Charles,” he told me last week in a telephone interview.
“I had an early Elvis fixation. My first time onstage was in a third grade talent show. I did an Elvis impersonation.
“In high school, I joined what passed for a punk rock band in Monroe.”
He went on to study and earn a masters in fine art from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
This guy’s a poet. I mean a real, card-carrying poet.
It’s noteworthy that Kevin earned a degree in writing poetry, but pretty much taught himself to play the guitar. “It’s a weird collision of so-called low-brow with so-called high-brow,” he explains.“
Growing up in the south, blues was all around him, and although I wouldn’t consider Gordon a straight-up bluesman, the blues permeates his music.
“Blues is certainly there, in my work,” he says, choosing his words carefully. “It’s a strange hybrid. What drew me to blues was rhythm … John Lee Hooker’s right hand … I played a little gig last night in Indiana, and the blues stuff got people up and dancing.”
Talking about the process of songwriting, Gordon said, “I usually start with the musical idea; lyrics come later. Sometimes I hear the melody and I can hear the number of syllables before I have the words. People find that unusual because of the poetry thing, but that’s the way it seems to work out.”
When Gordon collaborates on a tune, it’s often with Syracuse, N.Y. native Gwil Owen. “I moved to Nashville in 1992,” Gordon says, and it took me awhile to find out where I was, musically and metaphorically. I met Gwil who became a great friend and collaborator.
Together, the two would write “Flowers,” which Irma Thomas included on her Grammy-winning album, After the Rain (Rounder, 2006). The duo also co-wrote “Deuce and a Quarter,” performed by rock legends Keith Richards, Levon Helm, Rick Danko and others for the Elvis tribute record, All the King’s Men.
Gordon’s songs have been covered by Ronnie Hawkins, Kate Campbell, Blackie & the Radio Kings and others.
He’s recorded three albums of his own:
Cadillac Jack’s #1 Son (Shanachie/Feb. 17, 1998). This one’s true Americana, complete with honky tonk blues and a rockabilly sound. Produced by Gary Tallent.
Down to the Well (Shanachie/Aug. 8, 2000). Produced by Bo Ramsey, Joe McMahan and Gordon.
O Come Look at the Burning Dig (Oct. 4, 2005), an intense and raw recording, in the same spirit as his live performances. Produced by Gordon and Joe McMahan.
The title track from his Down to the Well CD, a duet with Grammy-winner Lucinda Williams, was featured on two significant compilations: the 2001 Oxford American Southern Music Sampler, and No Depression: What It Sounds like, Volume 1, (Dualtone, 2004).
To say Kevin Gordon is a well-respected songwriter would be an understatement.
Here’s what Peter Cooper writer for The Tennessean had to say about Kevin last year:
“Every now and then, someone writes a great song and fellow songwriters curse themselves or not coming up with the same idea . . . . More rare, though, is the undeniably superb song that could only have come from one mind, and from one personʼs experience. Kevin Gordonʼs ʻColfaxʼ is that song. It clocks in at well over six minutes. Itʼs ostensibly about a kid in a marching band but winds up being about the heart of American darkness and the steel that it takes to move beyond. It is not yet on an album, and it will not be recorded by some famous country radio star. But we’ll empty your spit-valve for life if you ﬁnd us anything more stunning than ʻColfaxʼ in 2009, when Gordon moves it from stage to CD.” [Note: this disc, titled Gloryland, is currently being mastered. Release is expected later this year.]
Talking about “Colfax,” Gordon says, “Itʼs based on an experience from junior high. “This song, like others on the new record, draw from my memories of growing up in the land of strangeness that is northern Louisiana, during a time when this very provincial place was going thru post-civil-rights- movement growing pains with plenty of resistance from what was then a very powerful ʻold guardʼ. The song touches on a lot of different things, but ends up a celebration of the stoic heroism and determination of that band director and others like him.”
Gordon’s shows are known for their passion and high energy. “Well, you know, I come out of that punk rock thing. There’s always an edge. When I’m playing solo, there are two amps. I use a Gibson ES125, electric archtop. That’s how I make peace with playing solo.
“Acoustic is just a little too naked and it doesn’t reflect the songs, which come from a rock and roll place. And on ballads, if you play softly, it sounds acoustic, but if you lean on it, it sounds like John Lee Hooker 1949.”
This isn’t Gordon’s first gig with South By Southeast. He played in early 2000, when the music feasts were being held at the Brewery.
The folks at SxSE are all buzzing about Kevin’s return to the Frog. According to SxSE co-founder Sam Hannaford, now at the helm of South By Southeast since the unexpected death of former president Jeff Roberts, “Kevin Gordon was one of Jeff’s favorite musicians in the world, and the last time we spoke, it was about booking Kevin again. He was so excited to have him back! Kevin Gordon is world class. You’ve got to come out and hear this guy!”
According to Kevin Gordon, the feeling is mutual. He also tells me he’ll be bringing his latest CD, a compilation of live recordings, Salvage & Drift.
How poetic is that?
Tickets are $25 or $20 for annual SxSE concert subscribers. (Send an email with your name, number of tickets requested and membership status to firstname.lastname@example.org. Along with an incredible night of music, your ticket includes a potluck dinner and dessert, wine and beer from New South Brewery, soft drinks and coffee. Feasting begins at six o’clock and the music starts at seven.
The Train Depot is located at 851 Broadway, Myrtle Beach, S.C. For more information, log onto southbysoutheast.org.
Trust the Frog!
Sunset River Marketplace art gallery in Calabash, N.C. has announced that Wilmington musician, Jim Quick, will present Inside the Song: the Making of Music at its monthly Creative Exchange event on Wednesday, August 11.
Owner Ginny Lassiter said, “We are so excited Jim is coming to the gallery. Jim Quick is legendary in this area for his witty banter and comical onstage antics. But not everyone outside the music business realizes what a serious and skilled songwriter he is.”
Singer/songwriter Jim Quick is the front man for one of the most successful bands in the Cape Fear region and along the Grand Strand: Jim Quick & Coastline. The group plays to packed rooms up and down the east coast. In December of last year, they opened for country duo Montgomery Gentry in Cancun, Mexico. This past April, Jim Quick & Coastline were the opening act for national recording artist Delbert McClinton at the Myrtle Beach House of Blues.
Quick also fronts King Tyrone & the Graveyard Ramblers, which is something of an alter ego for Coastline, although the lines between them are often blurred. Coastline, though not a true beach band, performs more R&B and shag songs. King Tyrone puts out a funkier swamp sound and records some of the more irreverent tunes Jim has written, such as “Mama’s Drinkin’ Liquor Again” and “(I Didn’t Buy This Beer, But I’m) Payin’ the Price,” which the band co-wrote with Ed Carrigan.
Jim Quick has been named CBMA Entertainer of the Year seven times and Songwriter of the Year twice, as well as receiving five Song of the Year awards. The band has won Group of the Year five times, in addition to earning several other honors.
Live At HOTO’s is the band’s just-released CD, which was recorded at Harold’s On the Ocean in the Cherry Grove section of North Myrtle Beach, S.C. earlier this year. Quick also has a solo CD being produced by Nashville songwriter/producer Gary Nicholson. A release date has not been scheduled.
About his songwriting, Quick says, “I can remember making up songs when I was a little kid, maybe three years old. But I was probably about nine when I started messing around with my dad’s guitar. I was much more prolific in high school, using the keyboard. I went through a stage of just making it rhyme.
“I think I was 19 when it changed. John Hiatt flipped the switch for me. I got it. I understood that you have this whole world that you create.”
According to Quick, he plans to explain his songwriting from the inside out, “where I get everything from, how deep I have to put myself in the type of music … how to convey the meaning … taking it and putting it together.”
Since opening in 2002, Sunset River Marketplace has become an active supporter of performing, literary and visual arts in the area. The gallery hosted Brunswick Arts Council’s Evening of Miniature Masterpieces fundraiser multiple times and is a 2010 Silver Sponsor for the Friday evening Summer Concert Series at Ocean Isle Beach.
Creative Exchange is an interactive community event held at Sunset River Marketplace. The gallery is located at 10283 Beach Drive SW (Hwy. 179) in Calabash, N.C. Jim Quick’s songwriting presentation takes place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. There is a $5 fee and, due to limited seating, reservations are required. This event is expected to fill up quickly, so get your spot early.
For more information, call 910-575-5999. If you’d like to be notified about upcoming Creative Exchange, Coffee With the Authors or other gallery events, send an email email@example.com. Gallery news is also posted on the website:www.sunsetrivermarketplace.com.
This is one dude who knows how to party. The eleventh annual J Edwards Birthday Bash is set for July 31 at the Jamil Temple in Columbia, S.C. from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Singer/songwriter J Edwards has been throwing his own birthday party since the year 2000. One Saturday night, which happened to be his birthday, he had a gig booked at a joint called Sandra’s Corner Pocket.
“I invited some blues buddies to come and jam with me,” he remembers. “I couldn’t pay them, but I figured I could handle the bar tab. It was a lot of fun, and the tips covered the tab, so it was a great birthday.”
He did it again and by the third year out, he had so many bands wanting to play he had to make a schedule.
“I’ve had up to 15 bands, but cut back now because I’m actually paying them!” he told me in between finishing work on his new CD, finalizing band schedules, selling tickets and organizing raffles for the nonprofits involved and who knows what else.
The entertainment ranges from full on electric blues to funked up R&B, rockabilly, modern rock and smooth acoustic country.
This year’s line-up covers a lot of ground. Here are some of the players.
Rob Crosby (singer-songwriter/acoustic country)
This Sumpter, S.C. boy moved hisself to Nashville in the late eighties and has scored hits as both songwriter and artist. He has writing credits on “Concrete Angel” performed by Martina McBride, “She’s More” by Andy Griggs and “Holdin’ a Good Hand” by Lee Greenwood. His own top ten hits include “She’s a Natural,” “Love Will Bring Her Around” and “Burnin’ For You.”
Talking about Crosby, Edwards says, “Rob is just smooth .. that’s all I can say … the boy just drips with honey. His songwriting abilities weave a message that’s pretty phenomenal.” Showtime 5:45 p.m.
Rickey Godfrey (soul-blues guitarist/vocals)
Whether you’re talking vocals or instrumental, Nashville’s Rickey Godfrey is recognized not just in Music City and his home state of South Carolina, but all over the world. He’s toured and played with Sam Moore, Rufus Thomas, the Box Tops, Johnny Jones and Billy Preston. J Edwards said, “Rickey’s superb bluesmanship captures attention wherever he goes. He’s got such a cool groove. Folks are going to be blown away.” Godfrey, who is currently working on his own blues album for release later this year, also played on Lulu’s House, J Edwards CD on the Serenity Hill label, set for release at the Birthday Bash. I’ve heard a few of the tracks and can’t wait to hear the rest. Showtime 3:15 p.m.
Tommy Tutone (80s pop, rockabilly)
Best known for his hit “867-5309/Jenny” from his gold album Tutone 2, Tommy is working on a new CD called Soul Twang, bringing a new synthesis of rockabilly, soul and country to the table. Gonna be fun. Showtime 6:30 p.m.
Soul Mites (funk-rock)
This quartet has been together since college, and on the S.C. music scene for some 13 years. Lead singer Tim Davis’ raspy voice adds to their unique sound. Edwards said, “These guys are pure funk rock… their grooves are unbelievable.” Showtime 7:30 p.m.
Cravin’ Melon (Southern rock, folk rock, rockabilly)
This is one of those bands you just gotta see live. Their fans, who range from the fanatical Front Row Club to newbie melonheads are practically part of the show. The band mixes southern charm with tasty guitar licks, vocals and rhythm section to serve up a feast of musical morsels. Get yourself some. Showtime 9:45 p.m.
Midway Blue (Southern rock)
Out of Florence, S.C., these guys recently played the Charlotte Motor Speedway and won the semi finals round of the SPEED channel’s talent show, “Fast Track to Fame.” J Edwards is really enthusiastic about this group. “Midway Blue have a really cool take on Southern country rock … kind of a Beatles’ flair and it’s straight into Craig Morgan country sound with a little Lynyrd Skynyrd over the top.” Showtime 5:45 p.m.
Latin influences, funky phrasing and straight up rock are words that founders Gabriel Lopez and Charles Funk use to describe their unique musical sound. You’ll have to hear it for yourself. (If you’re already a J Edwards fan, you know Funk as his scorching guitarist.) Showtime 2 p.m.
General admission tickets for the Birthday Bash are $15 advance/$20 at the door. VIP tables for four cost $200. A portion of your ticket price will go to one of half a dozen charities. There will also be raffles and silent auctions going on all day.
For more information on the charities, schedules or tickets, visit www.jedwardsband.com or “J Edwards 11th Annual Birthday Bash” page on Facebook or call 803-315-1901. J Edwards Band showtime 8:45 p.m.
This year the Cape Fear Blues Festival is celebrating its fifteenth birthday and it will be another birthday bash to write home about. From July 23 – 25, Wilmington, N.C. will be full of blues fans ready to take in one great show after another.
The Festival opens Friday night with the traditional Blues Cruise aboard the triple deck Henrietta III riverboat at the corner of Water Street and Dock. The two-hour party along the Cape Fear will be rockin’ with performances by Bill “Sauce Boss” Wharton and his band. The only thing hotter than his slide guitar is his Liquid Summer Hot Sauce. I want me some of both! Locals Dusty Long & Friends and Rick Tobey will be adding to the fun, and don’t forget to check out Spider Mike Bochey as you board.(Tickets $49).
Over at the Rusty Nail, the Dynamic Thermotones will take the stage at 9 p.m. for a night of blues-driven R&B. And don’t be surprised if things get funky! Love this band! The Rusty Nail, located at 1310 South 5th St., is a typical little juke joint, and one of my faves. It’s home to Wilmington’s weekly blues jam. Call the club at 910-251-1888 for ticket info (Tickets $5).
Saturday’s the big day and the festival concert is moving back to Legion Stadium under the tent. Yay! This year, according to everyone’s blues buddy, Festival organizer Lan Nichols, there will be five blues acts starting at noon and going pretty much nonstop until almost 7 p.m. Here’s the lineup: Mac Arnold & Plate Full ‘O Blues, Jen & Tonic, Tampa Blue, the Cape Fear Blues Jam Band and Blind Lemon Pledge.
Mac Arnold has toured and recorded with the Muddy Waters Band. You will love the funked up soul-blues of Mac Arnold & Plate Full ‘O Blues.
Jen & Tonic is a group I’ve been wanting to see live. They put out a great blend of classic blues and soul, throwing in some contemporary stuff just to mix it up.
If you’re into finger-style guitar and acoustic blues, you’ll especially enjoy the soulful sound of Florida’s Tampa Blue.
Local Wilmington group Blind Lemon Pledge, although fairly new to the scene, was the 2009 Cape Fear Blues Challenge winner. They feature Jaime Michele on lead vocals and Mark Scott on guitar and vocals. Last, but not least, is local favorite Cape Fear Blues Jam Band.
By the way, parking is free. You’ll find plenty of food and drink vendors, restrooms and even games for the kids. Don’t forget your lawn chairs and blankets. (Tickets $12 advance/$15 at the gate).
Saturday night, there’s another shindig at the Rusty Nail, this time with the ever-popular Ten Dollar Thrill. And they are thrilling. (Tickets $5).
The all-day Sunday Blues Jam is at Legion Stadium and it’s always a blast. Here’s a chance to play on the Festival main stage with some of the best players the area has to offer. You know the drill: no coolers, no pets. Just bring your lawn chairs and get ready to groove.
Before I forget, this year’s Festival blues workshop (Finkelstein Music, 6 S. Front St.), Saturday, 11 a.m., will be Theresa Blue performing her unique blend of blues, folks and Americana. Otherwise known as Theresa Lindstrom, she’s the throaty voice of divorced blue collar moms everywhere. Careful, she’ll grab your heart when you’re not looking. Call 910-762-5662. (Free event).
The Festival ends at 6 p.m. with the Finkelstein Music Guitar Giveaway. This year, it’s a Squier (by Fender) Vintage Modified Telecaster Thinline guitar. Raffle tickets, which are available at Finkelstein’s, cost just $1 each or six for $5; Ticket info at www.capefearblues.org.