Show Review
Songs of Shiloh
by Peggy Glenn

Nicole Gordon made a deal with her husband a few years ago: if they were gonna move to Pennsylvania for his job, she would get to come back to L.A. at least once a year to do her music thing. YAY for her loyal L.A. fan base and YAY for Nicole, September was our turn. Even better YAY was that she and Marty Axelrod would get to perform 8 songs from their concept album, Songs of Shiloh, in at least one venue. I really needed a shot of good stuff when I heard them at Brad Colerick’s Wine & Song Series at the Arroyo Seco Golf Course in South Pasadena.

Songs of Shiloh is a musical in CD form without all the campy costumes, expensive sets, forced dialogue and razz-ma-tazz dance numbers. It’s no secret that Marty is a master wordsmith and keyboard artist and that Nicole could sing the dictionary and make your heart explode. The other secret they unveil for us is that Shiloh is a waitress from a movie they both love. They imagined other bits of her backstory and life. Voila, songs that convey bits of her personality, struggles, observations, and heartaches while also giving us glimpses of a few of the side players in her imagined life.

This was my 3rd or 4th time to hear the songs, and every time I hear something new. Shiloh’s story fleshes out more and more with each telling/listening. I recommend the album and their annual performance with an 11 on the amp scale.

Listen to "Got the Car Running" from Songs Of Shiloh HERE

Ernest Troost: O Love 

It can be a tricky business when a singer/songwriter decides he or she needs to be produced and teams up with other musicians. Sometimes hot players, brought in as ringers, can overshadow both songwriter and song. Then there are cases when added instrumentation simply gets in the way. Regardless, the question that must always be asked is, "Is all this extra stuff necessary and in service to the song?" Fortunately, blues guitarist/songwriter Ernest Troost, who has no problem filling up a stage all by his lonesome, incorporates the best of all worlds into his latest release.

With "Old Screen Door," Troost opens with an affecting guitar lick and vocal that could easily carry the entire piece on its own. In less than a minute, however, the song is propelled by electric guitars and a driving rhythm section that would make Dave Alvin proud. "Pray Real Hard," with a feel for Dylan's "Buckets of Rain," follows and takes a completely different track, incorporating acoustic guitars, mandolin and light drums and percussion. But it is the title song that best exemplifies what Troost has so successfully accomplished. Again, after singing the first verse as a solo, the mood quickly changes with the addition of a folk-driven rhythm section giving the song a bright new feel. This is also where we are treated to the first of many stellar harmony vocals by Nicole Gordon, who not only has a feel for these tunes but for singing with Troost as well.

Part storyteller, part bluesman, Troost has given us a work that not only has variety, but also 13 stirring song portraits, each one artfully crafted in a way that is always in service to the song.

 

If you live in Tennessee, when you hear the phrase "Shiloh," you might think of the Civil War Battlefield located near the Tennessee River.  However, for this album, the name details the life experiences of a girl from California, which might very well be close to the life story of one Nicole Gordon, the vocalist featured on this album.

Gordon proves her mettle very quickly on this disc, being very eclectic as an artist.  On the opening cut, "Get The Car Running," she possesses a moxie that Sheryl Crow would be proud of, but she turns on a musical dime, going bluesy on "Waiting On Me." I love the Johnny Cash-meets-underground vibe on the title cut, which has its' share of humorous moments.  There's a lot of sarcasm that comes forth in the songs on this disc, such as "Gotta Love Me," where Gordon will definitely put a smile on your face.

She channels her Nanci Griffith for the coffee-house sounding "Our Little Talks" and plays the Eagles card on the easy sounding "Quarter Century." The album ends with the hopeful story of "The Boy From Crooked Creek," which will give single people everywhere hope that their dream is coming from around the corner…..or maybe a few miles away! 

 

 

......For fans of Troost’s, you’ll be glad to know that O Love satisfies on many levels including the truly beautiful and finely crafted guitar work that we’ve all come to know and love. We are now engaged into a wider field of sound, with the darker and lusher sounds underscoring the deep emotions and warnings always inherent in Troost’s writing. Also returning here is the beautiful and instinctive harmony singing from Nicole Gordon, deeply groovy bass work from Mark “Pocket” Goldberg and fine percussion from Debra Dobkin. However, the addition of this fully “orchestral” sound (“Troost goes electric!”) is an eye-opening thrill, and you can see a strong branch growing out from the purely acoustic sound into a rock and roll story song classic collection......

 

Film, Theatre & Music Musings.

Monday, 10 March 2014

CD Review: O Love (Ernest Troost, 2014)




The work of the singer-songwriter Ernest Troost first came to my attention last year via Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome Band’s excellent album White Swan, which Ireviewed for PopMatters. That record featured two brilliant Troost-penned tracks which were, for me, among the highlights of the album: the murderer’s lament “Evangeline” and the superb family saga “Harlan County Boys.” A year later, Troost has released a new album of his own, O Love, a record that finds him supplementing his brand of country, blues and folk-influenced Americana with a rockier flavour and a vibrant full-band sound.
The results prove compelling. Troost has a warm, empathetic vocal style that pulls the listener into the songs but can also turn assertive and gritty when need be. And, supported by a sterling group of musicians, plus beautiful harmony vocals from Nicole Gordon, he’s crafted an album that flows smoothly but not blandly and that boasts several terrific tracks, the best of them rooted in narrative and character. The striking, punchy opener “Old Screen Door” pieces together vivid, disturbing images of family conflict, while the driving title track slides from despair to possible redemption. The twanging “Weary Traveller” and the portentous “Storm Comin’” are both infectious and there are also memorable love songs that manage to be heartfelt while skirting sappiness: the lovely “Close” and the elegant “The Last To Leave” are the finest of these.
Troost takes “Harlan County Boys” slower and more delicately than Glaze and co’s brisker bluegrass-inflected take, making the song an intimate family portrait, economical but rich in its evocation of place and character, and one that ranks alongside the likes of Richard Shindell’s “Reunion Hill” as a contemporary folk classic that's at once specific in its detail and yet timeless and universal in its evocation of loss and endurance. In sum,  an honest, humane and ultimately heart-warming record from a fine artist.
 

 

RICK SHEA’S LATEST ALBUM – ‘SWEET BERNARDINE’

Rick Shea – Sweet Bernardine
*** (out of 4 stars)
Label: Tres Pescadores Records

Sweet Bernardine is country music with a decidedly Western (specifically Southern Californian) accent. It is country music steeped in folk, blues, Mexican music and occasionally given just the perfect harmony (provided by Nicole Gordon) that makes a mockery of such sometimes meaningless genre labels. The songs are personal stories that have that just enough mystery to stay compelling through the final lyric, and even beyond.

Titled after his childhood hometown of San Bernardino, Rick Shea has written a collection of songs that are as contemporary as today’s headlines and as mythic and timeless as any good memory. With the laid-back drum groove and the jaunty accordion that several of the songs feature, with the lyrics full of experience and wisdom, with the integrity of the entire project, Rick Shea has me intrigued about his previous albums. I look forward to seeking them out.

 

Shea’s vocals are a straight delivery, unadorned by anything that doesn’t serve the song. Clearly he’s one of those singers whose album can be listened to repeatedly, that only grow more satisfying with each listen. Give this album a try. It just might remind you of why you started liking country music in the first place.

Essential Downloads: “Mexicali Trail,” “Gregory Ray Deford,” “Sweet Bernardine.”

                                               

“Nicole has a big, dignified vocal character! She's a natural for big, heart-pounding ballads and seems at certain moments to be channeling Patsy Cline which is a VERY good thing.”      - Bud Scoppa www.hitsdailydouble.com/Mix/Paste/Uncut

 

“Gordon’s no novice and her singing reflects an unflappable confidence! The common bond resides in Gordon’s savvy and sensuality, qualities that indicate stardom’s well within reach.“               - Performing Songwriter Magazine 2008

 

“Got the car running is magnificent! No other word will do. Gordon’s aching, sweet, & soulful voice drive the story forward… this is an emotional, beautiful, and rewarding album and a certain for 2007 Top Ten lists!” - Maverick Magazine

 

“’Songs of Shiloh’ is an emotionally affecting cycle of pop songs with pure melodic appeal and lyrical specificity. There’s the shivery beauty of Gordon’s voice, which echoes that of Sarah McLachlan and Kris Delmhorst.” - Bliss - Pasadena Weekly

 

Voted one of the TOP 12 DIY CDs of 2003 - Performing Songwriter Magazine

 

   "One of the Top 25 Demos of 2003" - Music Connection Magazine

 

 "Heavenly" - Jim Ladd DJ 95.5fm KLOS Los Angeles, CA

 

"I think Nicole's music is exactly what alternative country needs right now!"  -Buzz Brainard KZLA fm Los Angeles, CA

 

 "Gordon’s vocals are consistently appealing and reliable, if not especially unique. This mature artist has a solid vision of herself and articulates lyrics effectively."   -Music Connection Magazine

 

"Nicole Gordon is a talented artist whose VOICE is perhaps one of the strongest on the LA Scene!" - Scott Dudelson The LA Music Scene

 

“I think you have a great career ahead of you!” – Gerry Goffin

     Having refined her musical act since the age of eight, Nicole Gordon is no stranger to the stage. Tonight, the LA-based singer/songwriter brings her unique brand of Americana to the Echo, with songs that somehow sound both brand new and sweetly familiar. Her vocals could carry the show accompanied by a single washboard and the sound of spoons clanking against an old man's knee, but skillful guitar picking and charming organ contributions don't hurt. Gordon has drawn favorable comparisons to such varied songstresses as Sarah McLachlan and Shakira, but such far-ranging praise only affirms her astonishing range.

              She’s been writing songs since the age of 5 and has 11 albums (both solo and with various groups) to her credit. She’s also racked up a bevy of kudos over the years, with Performing Songwriter magazine hailing her voice as “one of the strongest and most soulful in the City of Angels.” And on Sunday, Nicole Gordon will make a rare area appearance when she performs at Puck in Doylestown.  

Though she’s a Philadelphia area native, having grown up just outside of the city, one of eight children, she’s made Los Angeles home for the last several years. But now she’s back east for the holidays and bringing her sultry, emotive blend of folk, rock, soul and country with her.  

The Temple University grad started singing at the age of 7 and got her first professional gig the following year. She took voice lessons with the late composer Russell Faith, who has guided the careers of such stars as Andrea McArdle and Joey Lawrence (and who had a studio location in Newtown Borough), before going on to study jazz vocal performance at Temple.    

Since her first solo CD, “Lost in My Head,” was picked as one of the Top 12 “Do-It-Yourself” CDs for 2003 by Performing Songwriter magazine and as one of the Top 25 Demos of the Year by Music Connection magazine, Gordon has kept busy with multiple projects.

 She appeared as the singing voice of the character Madison on the Warner Bros. show “Everwood” and works regularly with Emmy Award-winning and nominated composers Ernest Troost and Blake Neely on film and television projects as well as Steve Edwards and Alex Kharlamov on library music and commercials.  

Her album projects since her solo debut have included “Songs of Shiloh,” a concept record with Marty Axelrod; “All My Change,”  a stripped-down Americana record featuring “It All Begins with a Song,” which was heard on the ABC hit show, “Brothers and Sisters”;  and “Long Time,” a 1970s’ California country-rock record. Sunday’s show at Puck starts at 7 p.m. with Patty Blee opening.

 

 

Nicole Gordon and Flash Gordon - Getting Naked

December 27, 2009 at 11:51 PM by Andrea Frazer |

I am the first to admit that I'm hopelessly unhip when it comes to music. If it's not retro, musical theatre or country, then you can find me dancing (hey, I love to dance) but you won't find me singing along to the music. I'm not ashamed of it. It's not like I'm sitting at home cranking out John Denver's Greatest hits on my 8-Track Tape player. But if I weren't married to Rex, I just might be. And even with my blue tooth, pod cast, all-things-wireless streaming hubby, I still have an antiquated CD collection that could do damage should the next earth quake hit this evening. (Truth be told, I think Rex is a computer. If only I would come to terms with the fact that my belly button is not, in fact, the front side of what kept me connected to my children for nine months in-utero, but instead some intergalactic docking station for all things Rex related, I'd be that much more in sync with my husband.)

Despite being behind the times musically, I do have children that can keep me up to date. And while they aren't personally responsible for broadening my musical tastes, the parents of their friends are. Due to the liberal public school my kids attend, it's not uncommon to see two mommies, two daddies, a single mama of four or a happily married man of 2 wtih a red headed afro talk to me about their favorite artists.

Let me paint the scene for you.

Time: 8:30am (I'd love to say 8:10 because that would mean I was on time for school, giving me ample time to chat with well meaning parents who care enough about their offspring to not scream "GET OUT OF THE CAR OR WE'LL BE LATE FOR SCHOOL GXD DAMNIT!" on the way to home room. Not that I'd ever do that. Moving on.)

Scene: Outside the kindergarten classroom.

Characters: All of the above, but most importantly, a red headed afro guitar player who has a daughter as sweet as the review he gives me for the following artist.

Joe: "Have you heard of Nicole Gordon? She's awesome -- really worth a listen."

I have no idea, of course, and given I'm in my pj bottoms, I'm too tired to pretend I know who he's referring to.

Joe: "I'll bring her CD tomorrow. You should try her out - just for a few songs."

Me: "Fine, I'll listen," I sputtered, forgetting about it a moment later.

But Joe didn't forget. He gave me a sample CD the very next day. And, like my intention to get my kids to school on time for the month of December, I actually followed through and stuck her CD (not a download, people... an actual CD) in my car.

And by golly if he weren't right! Her music appealed to the folk artist in me with a deep, raw sense of understanding in way that only someone who has lost and fought in love and life can do. Like the best kind of sex, her songs were naked and real - no pretense. With tracks like "Every Night About This Time", "Bittersweet" and "My Hearts Broken" it's clear that Nicole is an artist who is not just a one-hit newbie but someone who has been around long enough to write a song that can make us all nod our head and say, "Yeah. I get that."

The holidays are now over. I've eaten to excess, laughed to excess and spent money to excess. Along the lines of the last song titled mentioned, do ya'll get that? Yeah? Because I am done. But with Nicole Gordon now playing in my portable CD player, and me doing my best Flash Gordon impersonation for my husband, I can face the new work week with a smile. Happy pre-New Year's to you all!

PS: For those of you who want a change from your boring music, check out Nicole Gordon. For those of you who want to surprise your computer surfing husband, just lift up your shirt on your way to the kitchen for a second cup of Yuban. Flash Gordon! Works like a charm every time!)

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