Preview 7-16-10 Moscow, ID

The Gourds: A Sound All Their Own
Austin band The Gourds bring their eclectic music to Rendezvous in the Park

By Alan Solan Daily News staff writer
Thursday, July 15, 2010

WHAT: The Gourds at Rendezvous in the Park
WHEN: Opening act starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: East City Park, Moscow
COST: $20 adult, $10 youth

The Gourds' most recent studio album is the band's best so far because it's the closest they've been able to come to reproducing the feel of a live show.

"It was the way we recorded it," Kevin Russell, a singer and guitar, mandolin and harmonica player in the band, said in a telephone interview Monday. "The main part was recorded live in a room."

The album, "Haymaker," which was released last year, was not even intended to be made. The band had planned to make a demo "to kind of see what we had," Russell said.

What they had were some grooves so solid they sounded just right on the first take and the album was built around them, Russell said.

"We loved the feel of it. It was real easy and fun."

The band is the headliner for Friday's Rendezvous in Park concerts. Local band Hueco will open the evening's session at 5:30 p.m., followed by The Soul of John Black and then The Gourds.

The other members of the Austin-based Gourds are co-songwriter Jimmy Smith on vocals, backing vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, percussion, harmonica and double bass; Claude Bernard on accordion, electronic keyboard, backing vocals, acoustic guitar and percussion; Keith Langford on drums, harmonica and backing vocals; and Max Johnston (formerly of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco) on vocals, backing vocals, fiddle, lap steel guitar, mandolin, acoustic guitar and banjo.

That's a long way from the band's acoustic beginnings.

"When we started we had a real minimalist ethos," Russell said. "That was our sound, that was all we needed. Now we've become this sort of rolling pawnshop of a stage, there's so many instruments up there."

The variety of instruments has become key to the band's sound, which, at first glance, could be called something along the lines of "alt-country," but in fact, the band's music is difficult to categorize.

How many alt-country acts cover such tunes as "Gin and Juice" by rapper Snoop Dogg or "Ziggy Stardust" by David Bowie? Both songs are on The Gourds' 1998 album "Gogitchyershinebox."

"We can change the whole tone of the show just by switching instruments," Russell said. He characterized the band's sound as an "interesting, ever-changing sonic buffet."

That eclectic style has won The Gourds fans in every part of the country, but it also has kept the band from becoming a big commercial success.

That's fine with Russell, who says the idea of "selling out" used to be frowned upon but now is "completely accepted."

"Bands are breaking and becoming huge because they have their song in a commercial," he said. "I hate it. I can't stand it. Maybe one day it will change."

The band is talking about making a new album, Russell said, and it's likely it will be made in much the same way as the previous ones.

"Time is our most valuable asset to all of us. We never have enough money to take a bunch of time off," he said. "The incentive is to make a record quickly, guerrilla style."

In the meantime, the band will continue its routine of playing 150 or more shows a year.

"We've just been doing what we do and having fun," Russell said. "We do what we do. We've got quite a bit of street cred and our integrity."

The band's seemingly undefinable sound has led to a wide assortment of fans.

"We have a really diverse audience," Russell said. "People will say, 'I hate country, but I like y'all.' "

Even hard-core fans of the band are surprised at each performance, he said.

"It's not static. We really are all over the map. We're not going to do what you think we're going to do."

© Moscow-Pullman Daily News Online

Alan Solan can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 235, or by e-mail at

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