Archive for February, 2010


Music for the Unwashed and Well-Read…

Every so often a band comes around that really grabs your attention. One that knocks you off your feet. One that captivates you in ways that no others have done. The Gourds, from Austin Texas will do that to you. If the stage is right, things will get rockin’ at a Gourds live show. The band has been bringin the ruckus since the mid 90’s and they always seem to leave you satisfied. I’ve seen them a good 6 times and they never seem to show a lack of energy. I’ve said for years, throughout the hundreds of shows that I have seen live that it is the enthusiasm, not talent, that creates a great live show. Not to say that the Gourds are not talented. They are professional musicians. But it is the energy that gets you hooked. On top of that the Gourds have a huge, growing catalog of great tunes.

It’s funny to me that they are so relatively unknown. The reason for that is probably because they don’t care for the media or landing a big label or selling out Madison Square Garden. If you think you’ve never heard of them, you have. They play the bluegrass cover of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin n Juice” that was conveniently misslabeled by Napster and all other download affiliates as Phish. Those of you that went to college anywhere between 1999 and 2006 know what I’m talking about. Its on every mix tape and had been requested by every frat boy in the nation at every party. But alas, Gourds music runs much deeper than that indeed.

Their musical blend of honky tonk, 70’s country, tex-mex, early rock, soul wrenching party music is definitely some of the finest roots music out there right now. They are the quintissential house party band. They are the band that I would love to play at my wedding. And the people that frequent their events always feel so real, so down to earth, flesh and blood real, that you just want to buy them a drink. I know that anyone that loves the Gourds and attends a gourds show I will like.

They think of their talent as “music for the unwashed and well-read”. A statement that only deepens my love for the band. There is something so unforced about their music. It might seem sloppy at first, but listen further, listen deeper, and you will find wonderful interpretations of the english language, and you’ll see that every pause, every note, every yodel, every distinct harmonic pleasure is there for a reason. Listen and you’ll find that these guys are really, really good. The lineup of Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell (vocals, mandolin, guitars, harmonica), Jimmy Smith (vocals, bass, percussion, guitars, sound effects), Claude Bernard (accordion, keys, backing vocals:, Max Johnston (fiddle, lap steel, banjo, acoustic guitar, resonator slide, mandolin, vocals), and Keith Langford (drums, harmonica, vocals) will never disappoint. Kevin and Jimmy trade lyrical and vocal duties on stage and on every album, with rarely a bias toward either. The question is are you a Kevin or Jimmy fan. Every Gourds fan, whether they like it or not, leans one way or the other. Even if it is ever so slightly.

Its hard to put a label on Gourds music. It all feels so vibrant and flowing. No single review can put a label on it. Kevin had this to say about it:

“I am always making up strange, poetical strains to foster contemplation and understanding of what we are and what we do – Rag and Bone Pawn Shop Jalopy, Well Read Neck Rock, Surreal Stomp and Soul, Texas Song Ghetto Tonk. Alas, it is a fool’s gambit. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal comes into play here, where reality changes as we observe it closer. If one focuses on one aspect of what we do that aspect begins to turn into another layer that may or may not fit neatly next to it. We are full of contradictions and superstitions and conflicts of culture and time. We love to mix all of the music, literature, pop culture and history we love into this bedlam’s junk drawer. Maybe that is a term we could use right now for us – “Junk Drawer Sound.”

Its not hard to tell why Kevin is the poetical genius that he is.
“We have always explored the English language and taken chances with it. Why play it safe? We did not dream of being Hallmark card writers or journalists or copy editors for owner’s manuals. We are not interested in sophomoric confessionals. We avoid Sylvia Plath like the plague. Understand? We are ashamed of Nashville, embarrassed for Billboard Top 40 – so much crap churned out by the money creeps. A wall of mediocrity and emotional shallowness is washed down on the heads of people who just want a song to listen or dance to. But, it could be done so much better, more thoughtful and intelligent. Of course we indulge in the hedonistic pulse on occasion. We are not tea sippers or prudish tight asses. That is not what I am saying here; I am saying very much the opposite. Beyoncé may seem provocative in her image. Musically and lyrically though she is highly conservative and safe. She takes no chances; she does not look even once for a second into her shadow. She is all well lit, sparkly, pretty, sex without the animal instincts, music with no place for the new brain, eh? She is fake and we all know it, but damn, she is so beautiful and shaking that ass, who cares, right? That is where the mainstream has gone. We work to present some alternative to that for some who appreciate it, and as much for ourselves as anyone, really.”

I will see the Gourds anytime they come my way. I own all their albums and plan on traveling to see them in Austin sometime soon. The Gourds have ensured that their witty and reference laden country rock will turn legend as they grow old. So buy their albums, go see a show, and find out what real, broadminded, American rock sounds like.


Happiest Birthday Mr. Marley



Praise to the most be high. Jah. Rastafari.

So they shut down Bob Marley’s Annual Birthday Bash in Jamaica because of a noise violation.  Really? Are you kidding me?  Where’s the love? After all he’s done for the country.  This morning, thousands woke up, ready to jam, and a curfew of 2am has canceled the party.  The real tragedy is that the promoter of the event, Clive Pringle, was named after a potato chip.  His legacy lives on. The 5-0 can’t shut down everyone trying to burn one down tonight, which is precisely what every ganj lover in america will do as soon as they here its Bob Marley’s B-day.  And they should.  We all should.  Might just see things differently, if only for a moment.

His music will live on.  That was what really mattered all along.  His music will always capture the freedom, faith, and devotion of struggling nations and people.  Soothing, but rebellious. Laid back and organic, but passionate.  It’s amazing that a man, a music, a tradition, a legacy can live for so long and grow so strong as Bob Marley’s has.  Such an iconic figure in his country, not to mention the history of popular music.  He once said:

Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold…

Wise words, Mr. Marley. I think we all could learn a little from this original gangsta.

Check this rare footage out:


Dust My Broom

There was kick ass show on Sirius channel 74 Bluesville yesterday. They were “goin deep”, as they say, with Robert Johnson’s old school blues tune, “Dust My Broom”. They played 30 versions yesterday followed by 20 MORE versions of the song today . Thats pretty intense. I sat there driving in the car and for the last hour of my drive they were solely playing different versions of Dust My Broom. Something tells me that if there are that many versions of a song, then it must be a damn good blues tune. All of them were bad-ass versions as well. Thats hot.

Needless to say that song has been running through my head for 2 days. Definitely had me ripping through my early blues albums. Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Howlin Wolf; grandfathers of the blues. I have found the Elmore James version of Dust My Broom to be the best. He lends his raw, legendary slide guitar skills to his work. Check out the great big, intimidating Howlin Wolf on his version: