Larry Campbell Produces Gourds In Levon Helm's Barn

Larry Campbell Produces Gourds In Levon Helm's Barn
August 10, 2011

The drive from Austin to Woodstock is over 1,800 miles, but musically they are much closer together. The Gourds traversed that distance to record their new album ‘Old Mad Joy’ (September 13 / Vanguard Records) at Levon Helm Studios with producer Larry Campbell, marking their major label debut, their first album with an outside producer, and first to be recorded outside of their home state of Texas.

Campbell, a former Bob Dylan band member and current Levon Helm Band guitarist/producer and musical director of the Midnight Ramble with credits ranging from Roseanne Cash to Paul Simon, pushed the band hard. Drummer Keith Langford says, “Larry challenged us at every turn, trying songs and parts in different ways, really getting us out of our comfort zone and bringing the best out of us individually. He deconstructed what we’d done.”

“This record represents to me a brilliant artistic achievement that only scratches the surface of the raw talent in this band,” states Campbell.

Singer/guitarist Kevin Russell adds, “Larry just got so excited, and it was infectious. For a guy like him to act like that toward us is flattering and inspiring. He became Coach Campbell, rearranging the songs and challenging us to play things we didn’t think we could play. He was like a preacher up on his pulpit. He’d just be waving wildly with his eyes squinted closed, and he was literally conducting us. It was a magical time.”

Of the resulting album ‘Old Mad Joy,’ out September 13 on Vanguard Records, Langford says, “I really hear the sound of the barn in it.” In fact, Langford played Helm’s drums as well as a set of toms that were a gift to Levon from Ringo Starr.

The band lived together within biking distance of Levon Helm’s barn, cooking up massive quantities of beans and home made hot sauce each day, an experience that brought the band closer together. Once, the Texans even had to team up to shovel a batch of March snow.

The New York Times has called the Gourds “one of the best performing bands in America” while has said, “Their clever (when intelligible) wordplay and responsive string play has inspired legions of ardent fans.”


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