Kevin Gordon has long been considered one of Nashville’s best kept secrets, but his is a secret that needs to be told. He has produced a string of critically acclaimed albums and had songs covered by Todd Snider, Irma Thomas, Keith Richards, and Levon Helm. Perhaps the best kept secret of them all is the fact that Gordon is one of the most dynamic live acts in roots music.
On Monday night in Nashville, Kevin Gordon took the stage of City Winery to celebrate the release of his latest album, Long Gone Time. Backed for the first part of the nearly two-hour set by his crack band, led by guitarist Joe V. McMahan (who also produced the new album), Gordon tore into the opening set of songs from the new album with blues-drenched, rock and roll energy.
Long Gone Time is half electric and half acoustic, and five songs into to the set, the band left the stage. Gordon, McMahan, and guitarist Lex Price (who contributed greatly to the acoustic half of the album) joined in for a powerful acoustic set of songs including “Walking in the Levee” and “Crowville.” Nashville singer-songwriter Jon Byrd joined in on “Shotgun Behind the Door.” Fellow Louisiana native Kate Campbell sang the new album’s Bonus Track: “Following a Sign (The Preacher’s Wife).” Gordon closed the acoustic set with the new album’s centerpiece song, “Goodnight Brownie Ford,” a meditation on his short but memorable encounter with the cowboy singer.
The full band returned to take on some highlights of Gordon’s impressive back catalogue. Opening this set with “Watching the Sun Go Down” from his 2005 album, O Come Look at the Burning, Gordon and his band easily moved through songs from each of his previous three albums, including 2012’s Gloryland. The nights final guest, legendary Nashville rocker Webb Wilder, joined in on “Jimmy Reed is the King of Rock and Roll” (a song Wilder covered).
Gordon set up the audience with his epic, personal account of growing up in the post-Civil Rights-era Deep South — with “Colfax/Step in Time,” from Gloryland — before knocking them down and out with the show stopping “One I Love” from the same disc.
Season 8 Voice contestant and powerhouse Nashville singer-songwriter Sarah Potenza opened the show and provided background vocals to a few songs in Gordon’s set. Her set featured both original and cover songs, which served to showcase the vocal prowess that turned all four judge’s chairs on the NBC series.