Music

Album Review: Kevin Gordon’s ‘Tilt & Shine’ Delivers a Mystical Worldview

Kevin James/Jacob Blickenstaff

Kevin Gordon‘s been at this for a long time, but his new album Tilt & Shine provides a truly skewed take on the singer-songwriter’s Louisiana. The album, out now on Crowville Media, is a follow-up to Gordon’s acclaimed Long Gone Time and Gloryland. “One of the things I like about it and am mystified by is that what passes for normal in Louisiana would not make the grade elsewhere,” Gordon writes. All of the songs on the album are true, held aloft by Gordon’s syrupy guitars and swampy grooves.

Gordon’s a gifted storyteller but you don’t need to take my word for it. Gordon counts author Peter Guralnick, Buddy Miller, Todd Snider, Jed Hilly — the head of the Americana Music Association, and Lucinda Williams herself as fans. (Williams joins Gordon on the song “Down to the Well” from his album of the same name.) For his ninth outing, Gordon assembles a dream team of musicians, including Aaron Lee Tasjan on a few songs and Joe V. McMahan (Patrick Sweany, Sarah Siskind, Allison Moorer, Luella and the Sun) on slide guitar and production duties. The album was recorded at Wow & Flutter in Nashville. McMahan’s helmed many of Gordon’s previous albums and their partnership has never been tighter.

It wouldn’t be quite right to call Gordon’s style Southern Gothic. From Gordon’s viewpoint, the world truly is this wacky. Gordon gets us acquainted with “Fire at the End of the World,” a less-than-cautionary tale about a sheriff’s misguided attempt to scare young people away from psychotropics and a trip down to the Gulf:

Sometimes you just want things to tilt and shine—
Change it up a little bit inside your mind.
You gotta shuck the oyster to find the pearl
I heard about a fire at the end of the world

Hijinks aside, Gordon proves that he’s adept at painting sensitive character portraits. On “Saint On a Chain,” Gordon traces the path of a St. Christopher medal to a life who is inevitably lost and lonesome:

Every river’s a daughter of a dirty rain
But see how it shines
Water’s moving like the blood pushing through my veins
See how it shines, like a saint on a chain 

Personally, I’m most drawn to the more uptempo songs on the album, such as “One Road Out (Angola Rodeo Blues)” and “Drunkest Man in Town,” as this is where Gordon’s Louisiana upbringing meshes with his Nashville adulthood into a truly unique sound. That being said, there’s a reason Gordon was admitted into the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop: his lyrics straddle that mysterious border between music and poetry. Gordon carefully builds his characters and their worlds, making the everyday experiences in towns where not a whole lot happens into legends in their own right.

Tilt and Shine Track List:

1. “Fire at the End of the World”
2. “Saint on a Chain”
3. “One Road Out (Angola Rodeo Blues)”
4. “Gatling Gun”
5. “Right on Time”
6. “DeValls Bluff”
7. “Drunkest Man in Town”
8. “Rest Your Head”
9. “Get It Together”

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Album Review: Kevin Gordon’s ‘Tilt & Shine’ Delivers a Mystical Worldview