Kevin Gordon at Rehmsworld at The Balcony, Loomis, Nebraska
On a mild evening in February we arrived in Loomis, Nebraska at our favorite concert venue, Rehmsworld Concerts at The Balcony. To say that this was not your usual night at a venue is an understatement. Being a Sunday, we started earlier to make a special night of it. It had more of a feel of a church potluck with old friends and new bringing hors d’oeuvres on plates and in crockpots and Bev Rehm giving me a jar of her famous spicy mustard dip to take home.
But no church potluck I’ve ever attended had Kevin Gordon providing the music and I’m certain no church potluck ever featured a song about burning down a church house due to succumbing to the evils of the demon alcohol (a song which Kevin assured us was not strictly autobiographical).
Tim Rehm introduced Kevin and then showed off the barely used padded chairs he scored from a local funeral home. Very comfortable, considering, judging from the green color and the $12.95 price stickers on the bottom, they had been around since the 1970s.
Kevin described his first song as one he wrote after a trip back to his hometown of Monroe, Louisiana in 2012. The song, “Walking on the Levee” featured a line about remembering the smell of her hair which, Keven confided to us, was really Aqua Net and didn’t smell all that great. TMI aside, it really is a beautiful and melancholy song.
Next was the rocking “GTO” (about a metallic purple car his usually conservative father bought after he graduated college) and then Kevin spoke a bit about recording with Colin Linden and being covered by Lucinda Williams before introducing his next song, “Down to the Well” which was recorded by Todd Snider for The Hard Working Americans.
At this point he picked up an acoustic guitar made by women for Gibson during WWII. Kevin admitted he was terrified of playing it, but half of his new record was acoustic so he had to get with the program. However, he played it beautifully singing Brownie Ford about a guy he met in Louisiana who had run away with the circus as a kid and was later a “woods cowboy”. Kevin then proclaimed he was itching for his electric guitar. “I’m just impersonating a folk singer.” Nevertheless, he persisted, playing “Shotgun Behind the Door.”
Picking up his electric guitar again he said, “Now for some more life affirming songs.” Chuckling, he added, “Wait till you hear my children’s album.” Then he launched into “Saint on a Chain”, “Colfax”, “Flowers” (“A catchy little thing about a head-on collision” that ended up being recorded by blues great Irma Thomas.), “Deuce and a Quarter” (which was recorded by Keith Richards and Levon Helm), “Pauline”, “Gloryland”, “Bus to Shreveport”, “Company Car” and two new songs with the working titles of “Right on Time” and “Gatling Gun”.
The two that stood out to me were “Colfax” and “Bus to Shreveport”. “Colfax” is told in the voice of Kevin when he was in seventh grade. It is the story of his African American Bandleader, Mr. Minifield, who has to teach a bunch of white kids to play and even face down the Ku Klux Klan when marching in a parade. The story is wrought with imagery and makes you understand how it all felt as seen through the eyes of a young teenage boy.
“Bus to Shreveport” is the story of how Kevin’s mother sent him on a bus to Shreveport when he was 13 or 14 to see a ZZ Top concert with his uncle – only 7 years older than him – and his criminal friend. They end up getting in a fight with a gang.
Toward the end of the concert Kevin asked for requests. I pointed at an instrument he had sitting nearby and asked, “What is that? Why haven’t you played it?” It turned out to be a National guitar from the 50s. It was a small thin guitar with a resonator and played with a slide. It was never equipped to plug in until Kevin attached a pick-up with double-sided tape and he played it sitting down because there are no marks on the top of the neck to let you know where your fingers are. It turned out to be my favorite of the night. Kevin used it to sing a blues song and later returned to it in the encore for a couple more songs. Other songs in the encore were “Jimmy Reed is the King of Rock and Roll” and “Fast Train”.
One of the great things about Rehmsworld Concerts is that we get to meet the artists and talk with them. We told Kevin how much we loved the concert and he expressed how much he loved playing for us which was evident by how late it was when we got home. Another amazing night at Rehmsworld and we can’t wait for more!