Kevin Gordon’s Louisiana is a strange place. It’s a place where restless teens road trip on highways that end at the Gulf of Mexico; where prisoners who are in for life compete in a rodeo while the town watches; where a character can get lost in the humid afternoon, where religion signifies anything but hope; and where rivers, never far away, carry secrets behind levees. “What passes for normal in Louisiana would not make the grade elsewhere,” says Gordon.
It’s a place he’s been exploring for twenty years now, and continues to investigate on his astonishing new album Tilt & Shine. The situations above, which weave through the album, are all based on true stories. But before you even hear his vivid lyrics, you start feeling the sound of that ’56 Gibson tuned down to open D, with a tremolo flowing like a river, and an unstoppable groove distilled from swamp blues and Sun Records. And the lyrics? His MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop allows Gordon to capture those with precision and imagination. As the New York Times put it in its feature story, “Musican or Poet? Yes to Both.”
It’s work that’s earned him fans like Buddy Miller, Todd Snider, Jed Hilly, and Lucinda Williams, who once dueted with Kevin on the song “Down to the Well.” And it’s an outlook that persists. “There are so many stories in north Louisiana. I’m captivated by the power of the memories — those films that run continuously in your mind, if you let ‘em.” With Tilt & Shine, Gordon translates those movies into rock and roll poetry.