Preview 10-15-09 Knoxville, TN

October 7, 2009

The Gourds are just about the most joyous group of contrarians in music. Try to describe them and you’re stuck. It’s a little country, little folky, a little old-timey and a little progressive. There are elements of Tex-Mex, Cajun, rock, bluegrass and jazz. Despite a solid catalog of original songs, the recording that has cemented the group’s music with most of the world is a take on Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” that is both hilarious and absolutely serious music.

“There’s nobody like us. That’s our blessing and our curse,” says Gourds vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Russell in a phone call while traveling to Little Rock, Ark.

That has been the case since the mid-1990s when the band formed and began recording albums and touring the country. The group has eschewed the rules of marketing and making it in music — outside of regular touring. The group was loved by audiences, but misunderstood by many in the music industry who didn’t quite get the band’s happy abandon.

“There’s no rules about it,” says Russell. “We hate rules. We’re just the most rebellious nonconformist bunch of guys. When we were at the AMA’s (Americana Music Awards) in Nashville last night I could tell everybody was bristling just being in that jive. ... Somebody asked us, ‘When are you going to play Nashville again?’ And I said, ‘Hopefully never! I never want to play this town again!’ They said, ‘Well, I see you in Knoxville.’ I told him, ‘Knoxville’s great. There are human beings there!’”

Russell says he dislikes the attitude in the Nashville where there seems to be a class system.

“I’m friendly to everyone,” he says, “from Emmylou Harris to the parking lot attendant lady.”

Russell says he only recognized after having children that he was fated to be a musician and songwriter.

“The great American manufacturers of guitars are Martin and Gibson,” Russell notes. “I realized after I had kids that my kindergarten teacher and first-grade teacher were named Miss Martin and Miss Gibson. My first-grade teacher told my mother I was a writer. She told my mother, ‘He can’t spell and he can’t read but he’s a good writer!’ I used to write all the time — still do.”

Russell says he’s begun writing in a more linear and narrative style in song over the past few years, but the band consciously didn’t write that way when the Gourds first started.

“In the early part of our career we were really about destroying that,” says Russell. “We were more into stream-of-consciousness, using impressionistic flights of language to create something.”

Now bits and pieces of things that might become songs become Twitter messages. Russell says he uses Twitter like other people might use an idea a notebook.

“If I see something interesting or I come up with a line I just Twitter it,” he says. “But that whole idea of, ‘What are you doing right now?’ I don’t get that.”

While the Gourds are going strong, Russell has started a side-band called Shinyribs with Gourds drummer Keith Langford and some other Austin musicians to supplement his need to constantly create music.

“Yeah, my dad said I needed something to fall back on — so I started another band!”

The Gourds
With: Shinyribs
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15
Where: 4620 Reinvented, 4620 Kingston Pike
Tickets: $12; visit

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