Preview 2-16-10 & 2-17-10 Jackson Hole, WY

Basic like The Gourds
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
By Aaron Davis

Jackson Hole, WY-It’s not the ideal way to discover a band, but like many other downloading college students, I found out about The Gourds from their infamous bluegrass rendition of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” in the late ‘90s. The track was even mislabeled as being performed by Phish, but I knew better. Their curious mash of grass and rap was the first of its kind to hit mainstream, and the irony paid off.

Years have passed, and getting to know them through their nine-album discography is well worth it. It’s predominantly an unwholesome collection of clever hippie-country that will make you want to drink, dance, sing-a-long and ponder.

Songwriters Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell and Jimmy Smith have built The Gourds repertoire into an American roots music catalog of their own. Their creative vices have been widespread, from using less familiar instruments like ukulele and dulcimer, to simply mowing the grass.

“Its like when Picasso said it took 60 years to draw like a six-year old,” began Russell. “Dumbing yourself down gives your ego less control, and you tend to come up with something more genuine and honest. The ukulele is really basic like that.”

The colorful genres of “kaleidoscopic-country” and “honky tonk badonkadonk” resemble the proud weirdness of their hometown of Austin. The redneck-hippie fusion that developed there in the 60s and 70s aided in the gravitation of more oddballs and misfits per capita than your run-of-the-mill capitol city, college town. The Gourds don’t stick out at all under these circumstances. More like, thrive. “Austin leans toward the subversive type of people,” Russell said, “so having conservative lawmakers developing legislation right here in town to bash Austin puts locals in a defensive, almost arrogant stance.”

The five members of The Gourds play a lot of instruments—guitars, mandolin, bass, accordion, keys, drums, fiddle, lap steel, banjo and four of them sing. So making a setlist is much like chess, and each night presents a different game.

“Making the setlist is the hardest part of what I do,” Russell admits. “I’m envious of bands like Old Crow or Old 97s that play the same set every night. I like shows to have a flow and build energy, but we try to use the list as a map and not worry about it too much.”

The Gourds’ latest studio effort, “Haymaker!” (Yep Roc/2009), paints lyrical pictures influenced by Texas characters, surrealist art, and literature. The vibe of the recording feels much a like a live show, with plenty of energy to back up the exclamation point in the album’s title. There aren’t many bands around that have withstood the test of time, and are still producing great work. The Gourds are one of them

The Gourds perform at 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 16 and 17 at the Mangy Moose in Teton Village. $15. JHW

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