Preview 8-09-09 Aspen, CO

It's All About The Gourds
by Jason Hood, Time Out Staff Writer
Thursday, August 6, 2009

So quite a few years ago my good friend Jimmy The Pit Bull brought me an album of original music by a band that he said he "absolutely adored." Okay, that is not exactly what he said, but the verbatim couple of sentences was so wrought with raunchy superlatives that it would make your crazy uncle Frank - the one with the metal plate in his head from an old 'Nam injury - blush like a Victorian debutante. That band was Ween, and upon first listen I totally agreed that they were everything the raving lunatic from Tennessee said they were. As I began to research the group I realized that I should have been familiar with them years prior to my introduction. Oops.

Of course with the amount of music out there and the limited time people actually have to seek out the good stuff, I wasn't too hard on myself. Then one day we got into a discussion about Dr. Hook and I had to admit I had heard of them but couldn't tell him anything about them. "Cover of the Rolling Stone?" asked Mr. Pit Bull. "Oh, of course," I replied. "I never knew who sang that." Again, he supplied me with a disc.

This is the kind of thing that both elates and infuriates me - probably because I have too much time on my hands. The truth is, however, that there are bands out there that fly way under my radar - even as a music columnist, musician and music collector. I could tell you a boatload of trivia about both Brad Delp and G.G Allen, and rattle off the lyrics to "I'm All Out Of Love" by Air Supply, but ask me who sang "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" and I might draw a blank.

I say all of this because I was just introduced to a band I feel lame and ridiculous for never having heard of. Hailing from the musical hotbed of Austin, Texas, The Gourds will be playing a highly anticipated gig at Belly Up Aspen on Sunday, July 9.

The Gourds are, to be sure, an eclectic, maybe even eccentric band of family men/musicians that at least, according to singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Russell, are reluctant to embrace their stardom.

"We were all friends for a long time," says Russell with his big southern drawl, "drinkin' and playin' around each other's houses, when our drummer went off and booked us a gig." Russell related this with a laugh but you could tell it wasn't exactly what he had in mind at the time.

"We were kind of cynical," he went on. "So he drug us into that. We didn't really want to be part of the music business, the sliminess. I mean everybody who is a musician wants to be part of the business until they reach that goal. It's been alright though; not too much sliminess.

"The Gourds music is, for the most part - and this is as simplistic as it gets - country rock. They play good old country chords in the tradition of Hank Williams, but they play them with the same flare and spin as The Band. In fact Russell's voice is eerily similar to the great Levon Helm.

After a good long pause, Russell described The Gourds as "Roots music. It's a hybrid of lots of styles of roots music." He went on to describe all the different regions of Texas, north, south, east, west, and all points in between, saying that "the diversity of ecosystems is equal to the cultural divergence." Perhaps it is not a surprise that their motto is "Unwashed. Well Read."

Russell's approach to songwriting is "music first." He writes on a vast and obscure array of instruments ranging from the mandolin to the banjolin, as well as standard guitar. "Then come the lyrics," he says. His lyrics come from a collection of notebooks that he has put together comprised of poems, stories, random phrases, and sketched-out ideas. "But sometimes it just all comes together at once," he confirmed with a little laugh.

As far as The Gourds live show goes, Russell insists it is "surprising. There is a lot of singing and dancing. I pull out a bunch of moves I learned from watching Soul Train as a kid. I'm kind of a big, redneck lookin' kind of guy but I surprise the crowd with my steps. And we change instruments a lot. We're constantly trading instruments."

Since my introduction to The Gourds I have come to the conclusion that they are at the very top of my list of new favorite bands. Had it not been for my good friend the World Wide Web, and the instructive phone conversation I had with Kevin Russell while he kept a steady eye on his rambunctious children at a Texas bowling alley, I would never have heard of this gem of a rockin' country group. Also, after Jimmy the Pit Bull gave me that Ween album I found two more unopened Ween disks in my collection. Maybe I'll find some lost or overlooked Gourds discs in there as well.


  1. "reluctant to embrace their stardom" my unwashed and well read behind. you can't tell me all that great music and hopping around the stage isn't designed to attract some attention!

  2. I think "some attention" is the key expression there. They seem happy right where they are, no? Otherwise, they'd be going on 6-month tours and doing all the other annoying stuff bands have to do to make it big. I don't know, that's just the way it looks to me. By the way, I'm not complaining. Last time I checked, I could go to any Gourds show and stand within 10 feet of the stage and talk to them afterwards...why would I want that to change?

  3. Some good arguments, Anonymous #2, but I'm not sure I can agree. Maybe they don't want to go on 6-month tours because they want to stay married? In terms of success, I have read interviews elsewhere that would suggest that a little more would be welcomed:

    Agreed it is very special to be able to watch them perform up close and even chat with them on occasion. If a choice has to be made between my easy access and their comfortable retirement when the time comes, however, I would choose the latter.

    Anonymous #1

  4. thanks for that link to the jimmy interview, anonymous #1. I'd heard about it before, but was never able to find it. great stuff. too bad it breaks off at the end like that. left me wanting some kind of conclusion. always leave them wanting more, I guess.