I don’t know a whole lot about the Avett Bros., except they’re from the Carolinas, and there seems to be a lot of fans of them out there who are also fans of Hank III. I haven’t really been properly introduced to their music. I want to say it seems a little more folky and poppy for my taste, but whenever I hear an Avett Bros. song played by someone else, I usually like it, like Six Gun Britt’s version of Beaches that was a hit in my Hellbetties Blog.
The reason I’m bringing up the Avett’s is because a good friend of mine and a hell of a musician, Justin Gordon is opening right now for them on tour. They’re heading through the south and Texas, so if you get a chance to see them, check it out. Following is a review I wrote of Justin Gordon’s Ten Dollar Guitar album. You may not like his music, but maybe you’ll like my review. He doesn’t have any of the Ten Dollar Guitar songs up on his profile right now, but I’m telling you it’s one of my favorite albums ever.
“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. “