All right, I’ll confess. The first time I put this disc in the player, I became one of those self-righteous whiners and thought to myself, “In a perfect world, Nashville would put records like this all over the radio, sell a bazillion copies and from now on, this would be mainstream country.” Well, the world may not yet be perfect, but as roots rock records go, Cadillac Jack’s #1 Son comes damned close.
On his first full-length release, Kevin Gordon has proven himself to be a master storyteller. His characters are so lifelike, and their stories so real, that the record feels like one long road trip with a bunch of friends. On the opening “Company Car”, you can feel the beads of sweat on the cold beer between your legs while riding shotgun through small-town America. You can see the disappointment on the face of an underage fan waiting at the stage door in “Pauline”, and feel the wind snarling your hair on “Lucy And Andy Drive To Arkansas”.
Musically, the record is rock-solid as well. The band is tight on Gordon’s songs (Gwil Owen co-authored four of the dozen), and the production of former E-Streeter Garry Tallent holds things together without interfering.
Like many artists whose music resides on the fringe of the country mainstream (Steve Earle, the Delevantes, Prairie Oyster, George Ducas and Kim Richey, to name a few), Gordon’s sound is accessible enough to appeal to the masses, while his songwriting is substantive enough to engage those who want more than musical wallpaper. The chances of Gordon and his neighbors becoming the mainstream anytime soon are decidedly slim. But maybe they’ll serve to bridge the chasm between the mainstream and all the great music that never makes it to the airwaves of country radio.