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Published: 2009/08/17
by Brian Robbins

Gordon Stone
Gordon Stone: Night Shade
Night Shade

Jeezum Crow Music
Pedal steel magician/banjo djinn Gordon Stone uses the title track of his new Night Shade album to pick up where he left off on 2005s Rhymes With Orange. Where Rhymes closed with a majestic and almost eerie-sounding Night Shade (Stones pedal steel at times sounding like Lon Chaney on the pipe organ at 3 AM), the new album takes that same theme, gives it a neck rub, straps a booster rocket to its backside, slaps it on the butt, and fires it off into outer space.
Thats right: just as youre lulled into submission to the slow sway of the opening melody WHAM! things take off on a romp that sounds like a jacked-up version of the Doors L.A. Woman until the drums get all crazy/funky. The beat crunches to halt and a B-3 bellows its guts out (Page McConnell!) theres another blast of drum funk and then the pedal wails in response more drums/more B-3/more pedal and things spiral and tumble as the rhythm section slides back underneath the whole works and takes off down the highway once again. Before you know it, youre back where you started, a little sweaty and disheveled, but grinning like an idiot.
Its that kind of album.
Stone has always pushed the limits of his main musical weapons, taking the pedal steel and banjo to places no mere humans normally tread. On Night Shade, however, he pushes things further (Furthur?) than ever, lashing world rhythms and out-of-this-world melodic ideas together.
Here we have a circle of Senegalese drummers laying down a driving beat as the pedal steel leads the crazy dance around the fire (Snakehouse); here (Champs Reel) we have what can only be referred to as Celtic banjo veering off into jazzy places up under the rafters; over here the steel chants and cries over a bed of moonlit percussion (Kaki Lambe); and here we have whats this? A lost Stones track with Ronnie Wood on pedal steel? (Stones Throw.) Naw thats ol Gordon again; youll know it for sure when the music drops away to handclaps and cowbell and instead of Mick Jagger growling/slurring something like Come on, bay-bay gimmee summa that oh, yeah!, we have a dog barking. Yep Champ the dog lays it down right in the groove just before the band comes crunching back in and Erik Lawrence tears into a sax break that sounds like Bobby Keys in his prime. (Elsewhere, Lawrence whos doing great things these days with Levon Helms band – is absolutely brilliant on a cover of Thelonious Monks Well You Neednt as he weaves, bobs, and ducks around handfuls of pedal and banjo Stone throws his way.)
Thats the deal with Night Shade: the musical brilliance of Stone, his band, and his guests will make you shake your head and rewind the tracks in an effort to figure out Howd we get here? At the same time, a thread of quirky humor is woven throughout the album which is good, because Gordon Stones so talented hed be scary if he wasnt so funny.

Defying the laws of musical categorization and gravity will do that to you every time.

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