Sometimes I completely forget that radio friendly music exists. That’s not to say I don’t listen to the radio (I think I might be one of the last out of my friends to listen to the radio) but the world of radio music and the music I usually write about never seems to mingle. That’s usually because a good chunk of music written for radio is written by someone that isn’t the artist playing it. In reality, artists are much more creative and daring — unlike much of the music over the radio. However, there are a select few who still hold on to that flavor in their own spare time…
Enter Stephen Gordon, a Bowling Green, KY self-described singer/songwriter and folk artist. He draws very strongly upon what most would consider radio-friendly folk/country music. It’s definitely no pop-country, but it’s not too far off.
Listen to the entire thing below!
I mean, let’s be honest… this guy is sitting and waiting for someone to pick him up. This music is just what most radio folk and radio country stations are looking for. I have such little experience with mainstream folk and country that I can’t even name an artist that Gordon sounds like. However, he definitely resonates something familiar. I can’t really pin point it. But at times, it is refreshing that this is still under that “indie” umbrella.
It wouldn’t be a complete surprise if you found Gordon opening for a bigger act, like Ryan Adams. However, I wouldn’t lump him anywhere near the indie folk stylings of Kevin Devine. That’s just too far from what Gordon really is.
Breaking down the innards of this album, Stephen Gordon is a great singer. The vocals will really be the driving point for this guy if he can break through to the next level. Instrumentally, it’s solid. It’s not unpleasant. However, it’s a bit… “stock”. Production wise, this is one of the best quality indie albums I’ve received. It’s super polished. No harsh clipping or any of that lo-fi crap that comes through my inbox some times. There’s a lot of pride in this album, and you can definitely hear it and feel it.
I might be just misinformed, but this isn’t necessarily what indie music is heading towards when we think about indie folk. Indie folk itself is going further back into even more bluegrass and roots styles. I mean, if you take Mumford & Sons, the most mainstream “indie” folk out there, they have twisted it into this rockish banjo-twanging roots kind of sound. I don’t know what to even think of that style, but I do believe that Mumford & Sons is the coming of a saturated genre. With that being said, Gordon isn’t even near that and his sound is sort of tainted by so many other country acts. With the right mindset, this guy could turn it into some sort of Bon Iver act. I mean, you can hear that vibe from the song “Chemical”, arguably his best song off the album. However, that one song is surrounded by this extremely static sound of radio friendly country.
And to pick on Gordon himself a little, this album really does feel stock. I have no inclination to listen to this again. As a musician, Gordon is fantastic. As an artist, I have no feelings for him. Every song is consistent with his own tone and style, but that’s just not me. I really wanted to believe in this, but from the beginning to end “Chemical” was the only song I would even consider to put on a playlist… and even then, that’s a far stretch. It isn’t smashing down any doors. It isn’t twisting my arm. It’s just there. In a really sad sense, it’s a rain drop in an ocean. The world of country has a million Gordons. I hope this Gordon doesn’t get lost in a very large crowd.
It’s not really a bad album, all things considered. I personally wouldn’t listen to it again, but that doesn’t make it unlistenable. It’s still a decent album for the avid and hardcore country lover. I would recommend it to those fans. It’s also the first that has crossed my inbox that has been so… pop sounding. It’s not pop. It’s no where near the soccer mom country out on the radio now, which is a great thing. However, it is near what all those other hopeful-mainstream-country artists perceive themselves to be… and that is not good. I hope Gordon can reach into his bag of tricks and find something more unique to include, because the uniqueness is definitely the faltering factor in this equation.