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Music Review

Gordon brings the places of his past to Lizard Lounge

It was just Kevin Gordon and his guitar at the Lizard Lounge on Wednesday.

FILE

It was just Kevin Gordon and his guitar at the Lizard Lounge on Wednesday.

Wednesday night, Kevin Gordon introduced the final song of his set (not counting the obligatory encore, of course), with a warning of sorts. It was, he said, a song that had its origins in the Louisiana where he grew up, a story from his youth (he was 13 at the time), and it was long — “a long song but a short movie,” as he jokingly put it.

What followed was “Colfax/Step In Time,” from his latest record, “Gloryland,” one of the most remarkable of the many remarkable songs that Gordon has written. It’s a story-song that manages to combine a self-deprecating look back at the juvenile delinquency, raging hormones, and other foibles of the high school male with the sudden entrance of a racial situation that vibrates with danger. And it was, no joke, of cinematic proportions.

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The last time Gordon was in town, he had a band with him, but Wednesday night, as on many nights, it was just his voice and his guitar. His 10-song, hourlong set combined the intensity of his music and performance with his sly, understated between-song commentary (noting that he had recorded the song “Down to the Well” with Lucinda Williams, he remarked that Williams couldn’t be here tonight; “Thank you for understanding”).

By Gordon’s reckoning, his songs tend to be rooted in the places — Louisiana, Nashville, Iowa — he’s lived and grown. In addition to “Colfax,” Wednesday’s sampling included “Brownie Ford,” a new song about a character from Gordon’s youth who actually ran away with the circus, and “Black Dog,” an “east Nashville song” in which, as Gordon’s gloss had it, his dog plays a metaphorical role for the unbridled desires of the middle-aged man.

All of those songs showed an unparalleled songwriter at work, using his roots to look for larger truths. And his singing and playing demonstrated that, for him, a solo arrangement isn’t lacking, but different. As he moved from blues (“Burning the Church House Down”) to spare folk (“Brownie Ford”) to muscular roots-rock (“Down to the Well”) to classic, full-tilt rock ’n’ roll (“Illinois 5 a.m.”, his update of Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land”), his guitar work — shimmering, intense, stinging and slashing, maxed out on reverb — filled the room in a way that seemed to make even the space between the notes he played reverberate.

Stuart Munro can be reached at sj.munro@verizon.net.
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