by JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
One of the joys of life in the Catskills is the abundance of talent ‘round every bend, and ever since Richie Havens sang “With a Little Help from my Friends” on Friday, August 15, 1969 on a dairy farm in Bethel, NY, musicians have flocked to the region, hoping to make a little magic themselves. As a result, the Upper Delaware River region is home to many artists of varied abilities, and what’s nice about a good open mic is that anything can happen, even a bit of “Lightening in a Bottle”—rare, to be sure,but not quite impossible. Such was the case last Monday, when I strode through the doors of Dutch’s Tavern as people pointed at my dog and waved. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the always delightful MC Antoine Magliano announced to the crowd, “give it up for Bryan Gordon!” Casting an eye toward the performer making his way to the stage, I remarked on the fact that he did not look familiar. “He plays a lot in Orange County,” Michael shouted in my ear. “You’re gonna like this,” he promised.
Whipping out my trusty smart phone, I Googled Gordon and quickly scanned his website, where I learned that Bryan had been “writing and performing music on the East Coast for over 30 years” and had been on a European tour in 2016. “His stories of life’s everyday struggles,” I read, “draw from various genres to create a blend of hook-laden rock/folk that is uniquely his own.” It’s likely that Gordon himself wrote those words, so not surprising that there were no direct quotes as to the prowess of the singer, but man, oh man—is he good. Powerful, crazy-good vocals, paired with some serious guitar skills instantly elevate Gordon (IMHO) above (simple yet enjoyable) open-mic night to main stage arenas just waiting to present. The guy was amazing (as promised), and I wanted to hear more. “Thanks, man. That’s cool,” Gordon replied when I stopped him to say so as he stepped off stage.
Heroes, Fools and Saints album review by Roger Zee
The harp of Dylan and Young. The voice of Mellencamp. The organ of Springsteen. Real darkness on the edge of town! Sadly, almost no one on Bryan Gordon's "Heroes, Fools and Saints" gets out happy -- or even alive! Hope things work out better in the maestro's real life. But on the up side -- bad news sells! Gordon wrote, produced, and played all instruments. Julie Corbalis sang background vocals.
So many tales of woe, so little time -- most fueled by alcohol-induced rage and a side order of inability to commit. Let's begin with murder. In the organ-drenched, mid-tempo rocker, "Rainy Day," the narrator describes how his brother Harlan "led a twisted life. A single word would set him into rage. You see the ill effect of alcohol, a six-inch kitchen knife made sure he'd spend spend his life living in a cage." On the ballad, "I Won't Be Coming Home," the singer relates "I killed a man in Austin an hour ago, don't think I'll be coming home tonight. I should have listened when you begged me to stay. We both know when I'm drinking just get out of my way. Now I know I never should have been in that bar but I swear to God I didn't think I hit him that hard.
Relationships seem to fold pretty easily as well. The vocalist throws in the towel on the chugging "Don't Tell Me the Truth." "Don't want to know what you were doing last night. I don't get pissed off anymore. I don't want to fight. Let's make things easy. We're just killing time. God knows I'm no angel, but honey you ain't no prize." In the gospel-like "It Wouldn't Be Right," "We've known all along I can't give you what you need. It's breaking my heart. You tell me I'm a selfish man. Deep down I know you're right. I don't have the kind of words to ease your lonely nights. Oooh I know that's what you need." The sadness continues on the sing-song "Better on Our Own." "I can see you're not home. Are you shopping or out sleeping with your therapist? He really must be helping. You keep going back. Did you think I didn't know?"
Love does triumph for a few short moments on the record. The narrator describes his crush in the uptempo "Spinning 'Round the World." "She rips her clothes and puts them on. She's different than everyone. She has multi-colored hair. She said she doesn't care. And her friends all put her down. She keeps spinning round the world." Another suitor rocks out in desperation. "Juliet, Juliet," I can't live without water. Juliet, Juliet let me drink from your sea."
These well-crafted and executed songs hook their sadness deep in the soul of the listener. The one-man band called Bryan Gordon evokes a time in the Seventies when epic tales of love lost captured the heart of our nation.
©2016 Roger Zee