The Love & The Mystery
The Love and the Mystery is Justin Gordon's latest record and the first that includes his backing band The Wrecking Ball. In this album Justin delves into a fuller, more electric sound backed by tight harmonies, but still stays true to the themes that powered him as a solo performer. Like his previous albums, the record includes crude yet character-laden tracks and interludes recorded by Justin in motel rooms from Oregon to Guatemala. Only now there is more rock in his roots-rock blend, and a healthy selection of live studio-quality recordings encapsulating the energy and soul of Justin Gordon's new sound. Written after the end of long roads and a long relationship, Justin Gordon's newest offering could be called a “journey of heartbreak”.
Recorded in July 2009 outside of Ashland, Oregon. Featuring Justin on telecaster and banjo, David Hampton on electric bass, piano and organ, and Kyle Coroneos on drums. Bob Evoniuk plays dobro on track 10.
Ten Dollar Guitar
These songs were played using only a ten dollar guitar that was tweaked and overdubbed to make it sound fancy, with the addition of a yard sale snare drum on track 13. Tracks 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 14 were recorded in the taxi from remote locations in Colorado and Utah. The rest was done in the back room.
"Ten Dollar Guitar is full of the best songs you’ve never heard. It’s like a road mix of your favorite artists and albums all ripped and ready to go. It’s rough as a way to be true to its music, but it’s still thought out and refined in its own way.
Asking what genre Ten Dollar Guitar is like asking a rainbow its favorite color. Ten Dollar Guitar is Justin Gordon and a ten dollar guitar. The collaboration of country, folk, blues, and Latin influences is superlative and seamless. You don’t listen to Justin Gordon because you’re in the mood for country or blues. You listen to him because you’re in the mood for Justin Gordon.
The album gets the wheels spinning with ‘Gasoline,’ a witty tune full of country idiom and political persuasion without being preachy. Then he immediately shifts gears with ‘Bottomdweller,’ a virtual lullaby that emphasizes Justin’s songwriting range. Like most Justin Gordon tunes, the themes of the lyrics and rhythms are harmonious. I can’t imagine he’s ever written an unfinished song that just needs lyrics. His lyrics and the music seem to need each other.
The album is peppered with Latin junkets that really help drive an underlying theme. They include ‘Staircase to the Sky,’ ‘El Viento,’ ‘Aliens,’ and the albums masterpiece ‘Leon Trotsky Assassination Blues.’ ‘Staircase’ and ‘Aliens’ are tremendous bouts of storytelling, but Justin’s historical account of a Russian man’s murder in Mexico, told in a southern black blues style puts the multi in multiculturalism, all while Justin works the guitar like a carnival calliope.
The album also has it’s more mellow tunes whose hearts lie much closer to home, wherever Justin’s home might be at the time, and one of the album’s gems is ‘High and Lonesome,’ which says much with no lyrics, and whose simplicity incites cool reflection and nostalgic ease.
The album ends with ‘Kansas,’ and just like the state, it makes sweet beauty out of nothing. One of my favorite lyrics of the album comes from that song. “Now our shocks are sacked out with all of our shit.” You may have never been to Kansas, but if you’ve been young, you’ve been there.
If there is any criticism of the album, it might come from its production. But praise could come from there too. Justin recorded ‘Ten Dollar Guitar’ using a simple audio device and a computer, and did all the overdubs himself. Most of the takes were done from the back of his car on the road, and there was no studio mixdown. Its easy to understand how this recording style could become limiting, but it is hard to argue that this technique gives an antiseptic feel to the music or makes it feel untrue like so many studio produced albums today.
Oh, and did I mention the guitar he used was a ten dollar guitar?
Well if you ask me, I’d say Justin got a hell of a bargain, and if you buy this album, so will you. So pony up."
The Trailer Tapes
Recorded live to drive at Sage and Dave's trailer on the fringe of Ashland, Oregon in single takes around Christmas 2004. Much, much, obliged to Sage Meadows, Dave Hampton and Jef Fretwell.
"Thoughtful, introspective, musically infectious and, at its best, flat-out brilliant...Travelers Rest is one of the best albums of its kind to come along in recent years. It's all the evidence needed to establish Justin Gordon as, not only an underrated songwriter, but among the region's best."
- Troy Gregorino, The Athens Insider, Nov. 25 2004
"Sandrock Hilton is a can't miss for anyone who appreciates gritty, heartfelt blue-inspired folk writing and singing coupled with satisfying guitar work. I am as confident in recommending Gordon as I have been in recommending any performer to date. He's a legitimate, multi-faceted talent whose work deserves notice."
Troy Gregorino, The Athens Insider, Jan. 29, 2003