The Upshot: Latest installment in the blues expert’s compendiums of reviews is, at 338 pages, a cover-to-cover essential read for enthusiasts and novices alike.
BY BILL KOPP
I don’t claim to know whether Reverend Keith A. Gordon’s title is an honorific, or if he’s truly a man of the cloth. But what I do know is that he’s here to spread the good news. And that news takes the form of a new book crammed full of album reviews (with some book reviews thrown in for good measure).
Gordon has seen his blues (and related genre) reviews published in print and online in a variety of outlets, most notably Blues Revue, Blues Magazine, and here at BLURT. What he’s done now is put together well over 100 of those reviews into printed book form.
Gordon knows his stuff, so a review won’t simply review the music, but place it into its proper context. The Rev offers the context a reader needs – the artist’s previous works, other influential artists etc. – and bakes it into every review. Rollin’ ‘n’ Tumblin’ focuses on reviews of albums that have been released (or reissued) in the last decade or so. What that means is that those interested in newer/contemporary blues acts have a fine guide in this volume, but those who are interested in picking up a good reissue, compilation or archival release have plenty of advice from Gordon.
The book is laid out well, if a bit idiosyncratically. For reasons known only to himself, Gordon organizes the artists reviewed in Rollin’ ‘n’ Tumblin’ alphabetically…by first name. And since there’s no index, that means that if you’re looking for info on something from a particular artist, you’ll have to scan the entire Table of contents. Happily, that’s only four pages of information – set in type and size that older folks will appreciate – so it won’t take long to find whether or not he’s reviewed, say, Real Gone Music’s reissue of Don Nix’s Living By the Days.
Gordon has chosen well for this volume; there’s focus on both well-known and relatively obscure artists from today and the past. And he digs deep into the reviews, often providing a song-by-song rundown of an entire album. The black-and-white reproductions of the album covers are faint, but then that’s not why most reader will dig into a book such as this. More of a reference work than a tome designed to be read cover to cover, Rollin’ ‘n’ Tumblin’ is a useful consumer guide to the world of currently-available blues (and blues-informed) music.
The book’s subtitle is The Reverend’s Archives, Volume 2, so if this is your kind of thing, there’s more where it came from.
Go HERE to read an interview with Gordon about his book, along with tips for, ahem, aspiring music reviewers.