Pop Culture Classics: May 2022

Pop Culture Classics: May 2022

KYRA GORDON – “SOUL OF A SHOWGIRL” – By Paul Freeman

Berkeley, California-based singer-songwriter Kyra Gordon proves on “Soul of a Showgirl,” her debut album of original material, that she has plenty of soul, as well as abundant eloquence, a gift for memorable melodies and a stirring voice. Whether powerfully passionate or gently reflective, Gordon brings an engaging honesty and sincerity to her beautiful Americana compositions.

It’s been a long and winding road taking Gordon to this auspicious debut, including stops in Oakland, New Orleans, Hollywood and North Carolina. She studied at several schools, including California Jazz Conservatory. She produced and starred in the one-woman show “Loving Janis,” an homage to both Janis Joplin and Janis Ian.

Decades of experience and dedication have paid off in a sparkling album, displaying her songwriting and performing prowess. In addition to her impressive vocals, Gordon plays keyboards.

On the title track, “Soul of a Showgirl,” she sings, “I was born with the love of lights” and “I’ll sing a song, I’ll dance for you, reach out your hand, I’ll pull you through.” But she makes clear in the song, not everyone can relate to or accept an artist’s overriding fervor for a creative pursuit. In her own quest, nothing was going to stop Gordon.

Gordon offers a disarming poignancy in the sympathetic “Bravest One,” an inspiring tribute to a resilient friend. “Who The Hell” simmers in bluesy style.

Blues legend Tracy Nelson joins Gordon on the moving tale of “Laredo Slim,” a tribute to a fellow musical artist, the late Powell St. John. There’s a sigh-inducing country lilt to the spiritual encounter described in “Doppelganger Angel.” “Emotional Pirate” reflects Gordon’s harrowing time in a cultish artists’ commune.

Other outstanding tracks include “Greetings from East Texas,” “Tender Hearts” and the exhilarating “Big City Lights,” But there isn’t a weak cut on this album. Listeners will embrace each and every one.

Kudos to producer Rachel Efron, another of the Bay Area’s finest singer-songwriters, for achieving such an eminently pleasing sound with this record. She helps give strong identity to each of Gordon’s distinctive songs. Gordon and Efron understand just when to insert instruments like organ, harmonium and harmonica to complement the guitars, bass and drums.

With this, her first album of her own compositions, Kyra Gordon instantly establishes herself as an artist whose work is well worth exploring.

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Hi- Res Edition Review: April 22, 2022

Kyra Gordon – Soul of a Showgirl – 2.0 CD review – by Wesley Derbishire

What happens when the journey of a young musician has led them from Hollywood to New Orleans to a rural North Carolina commune and onward to Paris? This is the long road that Kyra Gordon took as she belted out Janis Joplin hits in a one-woman show, earned a conservatory degree interpreting jazz standards, and spent several years in the improvisational hip-hop group ‘The Freeze’ that has fueled her outstanding debut album “Soul of a Showgirl.”

Throughout the album the music flows with stories of her footloose life as the Berkeley vocalist, songwriter and pianist vividly expands on insights she has gleaned along the way. What immediately struck me is Gordon’s rich, multi-hued voice that is filled with luscious dynamics and passion. Soul of A Showgirl is Gordon’s first album featuring her own original material, introducing her as a songwriter with an outsized gift for setting emotional lyrics to well-crafted melodic hooks.

Evoking the sound of high energy rockers before her such as John Cougar Mellencamp and Tom Petty Gordon blasts in at the start on “I Love You,” followed by a set of tunes that goes beyond americana, stretching into country, folk, blues, and ballots. Her sensitive and distinct vocals carry the songs over top of her well-arranged piano alongside the accompanying bass, drums, and guitars.

Turning to a folk and country blend she gently strolls across the piano while angelically singing “Doppelganger Angel.” Drums have been placed close to the front of the soundstage while vocals float spiritually across the stereo field. Gordon has an Iris DeMent and Shawn Colvin crossover blend to her vocals that warmly provides a sense of being at home while listening. For me, this song brings in the feeling of someone watching over me and being a part of my life.

The third track “Emotional Pirate” offers a depth of field with the piano and vocals bathed in reverberation delivering distance in the mix. I sense the uncertainty and hesitation of the story from Hell’s Kitchen as the rich base holds down the bottom. There is a wonderful loose snap of the snare that fills in nicely as guitars arpeggiate further off in the distance. Gordon organizes her songs expertly into a format customary in the early days of rock with verses, choruses, and a bridge on this folk infused piece.

The country girl comes out on “Big City Lights” with a country-blues shuffle as Gordon describes heading off to those big city lights. Hitting it hard on this tune, the band is on fire with jangly guitars and punchy drums. Gordon’s vocals soar as she belts out and repeats the lyrics to emphasize the story, arranging the song with multiple bridges that continue to engage and excite the listening experience. These finishing details of her extraordinary stylistic writing make this one of the finest songs on the album.

I am comforted by the air of melodic familiarity across the various songs, which particularly struck me on the “Bravest One” with its folk style gentle musicianship that flows across the stereo field. The nuance of Gordon’s vocals brings out the ethereal connection that is embellished by the organ. I can really feel her wrapping her arms caringly around the bravest one.

“Laredo Slim” is performed in waltz time with a hint of traditional folk blended into the Americana country style. I especially am enthralled with the openness of the acoustic upright bass plus the spaciousness given to the guitars and keyboards that spread from left to right. What makes this entire piece for me is the background vocals that harmonize so well with Gordon’s lead. There is a real looseness to the song that allows one to gently sway while being carried forward.

“Who the Hell Does She Think She Is?” really grabs listeners with an insistent rhythmic beat and crunchy guitar work. Dynamics are elevated from gentle side stick hits on the rim of the snare up to heavy hitting drums, along with an organ part that fiercely sits under zesty guitar licks while Gordon’s vocals rise over top of the band. One can easily feel the tension described so vividly in the lyrics and accentuated by the edgy guitar licks.

The album ends with a beautiful ballot titled “Tender Hearts.” Featuring Gordon’s acoustic piano playing and lovely vocals that opens up into the full band embellishing the peace. The subtleties of the piano are reflective of a very natural sound heard on these recordings, giving an overall sense of being present with the group.

From the start to finish Soul of a Showgirl is a remarkable album that I strongly recommend for fans of Americana, country, and folk fans. It is a very well recorded and delicately produced album that is a delight to listen to.

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East Bay Express: August 17th, 2022

Kyra Gordon: Exploring the heart and soul of a showgirl – by J. Poet

Kyra Gordon is back on the road and loving it. After being at home, unable to perform for two years, she’s excited to be playing in front of live audiences. She’s currently taking her one-woman show on the road for a series of house concerts.

“I’ve done two so far, one in Northern California and one in Salt Lake City, and I love how intimate they are,” she said, calling in from the road. “I get to tell stories and connect with people in a fulfilling way. I like landing somewhere, setting up my keyboard, singing, then breaking it down and doing it over and over. I’m my own traveling one-woman circus. I mostly sing original songs, but this year I’ve added some things my parents played for me when I was growing up. It’s fun to get people to sing along with some covers.”

“I did a couple of livestreams during lockdown, but I’m not built for that,” she added. “I didn’t enjoy performing for a screen. I did do something online with the Firehouse Theater that was cool, because there was an interviewer, and we talked about songwriting between the songs. I enjoyed that; but just me in a room, with no feedback, doesn’t really work.

Gordon is touring behind her debut album, Soul of a Showgirl. She made the record with producer Rachel Efron, some musician friends and her husband, drummer Brian Rodvien.

“We started just before the shutdown,” she said. “I had some meetings with Rachel, while Brian and I fleshed out arrangements and made demos. That turned into meetings over Zoom, like everything in life did. We looked at a couple of studios, but some musicians didn’t feel comfortable going into a closed space. We put off recording until November of 2020.”

Soul of a Showgirl has the feel of a live performance. Gordon’s vocals are front and center, with the band adding subtle asides that intensify the emotions she’s conveying. The lyrics describe scenes from her life with humor, compassion and insight. They sound like short stories set to music. “Big City Lights” is a honky-tonk rocker, with a hint of Dolly Parton in the arrangement. Gordon belts it out, describing the pleasures of life on the road. A galloping backbeat from Rodvien nods to Nashville in the ’70s, with DePrato adding guitar-fills that slide around the scale like notes from a pedal steel. Cohen’s organ takes the R&B of “Who the Hell Does She Think She Is?” to Memphis. Gordon delivers a forceful vocal that sings the praises of assertive women and the threats they face in a male-dominated society. Gordon opens “Tender Hearts” with soft piano chords and a hushed vocal, describing the tension between a man’s belligerent actions and the loneliness at his core.

Bay Area concert goers may know Gordon from Loving Janis, the one-woman show she created as a tribute to Janis Joplin and Janice Ian, two of her formative influences.

“They were both great musicians,” Gordon said. “Joplin was the fire, fury and emotion. I loved Ian’s storytelling craftsmanship and writing. They inspired me to be a storyteller and lyric-weaver and [to] perform with intense, vulnerable emotions.”

“I’m an adventurer,” she said, “but I got tired of roaming and came back home to the Bay. I continued singing jazz, rock and blues with various bands, and got serious about songwriting.” She studied writing, arranging and voice at the California Jazz Conservatory and graduated with a bachelor’s of music in jazz vocal studies. She joined the faculty as a voice teacher for teens and adults, and continued playing local clubs while developing Loving Janis. After she recorded it, during a live performance at Ashkenaz, she began planning an album of original compositions. The result was Soul of a Showgirl.

“The subtext of the title song is my journey to resolve the inner conflict I have dealt with about being a performer,” Gordon said. “I’ve had trouble coming to terms with what sometimes feels like the selfishness of craving an audience. The showgirl in me has taken many forms, so it was time to celebrate and accept that part of me. I wanted to honor that with ‘Soul of a Showgirl,’ so that song became the album title, because that felt like the heart of it.”

Gordon will be performing Loving Janis with guitarist Mimi Fox on October 22nd at 8:00 pm at The Firehouse Pleasanton, 4444 railroad Ave, Pleasanton (925) 931-4848  (firehousearts.org/events.)  She’ll perform songs from “Soul of a Showgirl” on Nov. 19 at the Lost Church, 988 Columbus Ave., San Francisco. 8:15pm.

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Americana Highways – Bentley’s Bandstand May, 2022

Bentley’s Bandstand: May 2022 – By Bill Bentley

There are certain singers who are totally able to take on any style of music and make it theirs. For them, music is a challenge and they are there to face it. Kyra Gordon is like that. The Berkeley-based woman appeared in the stage production about Janis Joplin, “Love, Janis,” and sings jazz, blues, country, rock and whatever else comes before her. Her new album, SOUL OF A SHOWGIRL has an equally wide range. She mixes love songs with ones inspired by rock & roll’s raucous roots, a track inspired by singer-songwriter Powell St. John, who wrote songs for the 13th Floor Elevators in the 1960s before co-founding San Francisco’s Mother Earth), titled “Laredo Slim.” It also features Mother Earth’s Tracy Nelson on vocals, and is as beautiful a musical portrait of someone’s life ever committed to song. It’s like St. John, who passed away last summer, is standing right before us. SOUL OF A SHOWGIRL has the spirit of someone who has set out on a grand adventure, ready for whatever happens and up for action. There are no fences around Kyra Gordon’s music, which means she mixes in a vagabond variety that is continually winning. Songs flow throughout the album in a way that pulls the listener all the way in, and then delivers such a wide-range of influences that there’s almost no way not to be won over. This is someone who is going places, and whether she’s hitchhiking or flying on a private plane will not matter, because wherever she goes Kyra Gordon will be sitting strong with a soul that could take her anywhere. Go with her.

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