August 25, 2013 Top Hat Lounge/Missoula, Montana
July 24, 2013 Hollywood Theater/Portland, Oregon
April 26, 2013 @ 8 p.m. – Wilma Theater/Missoula, Montana
March 16, 2013 SXSW/4:30 p.m. @ Alamo Ritz
March 14, 2013 4:15PM SXSW – SXSatellite: Alamo Village
March 13, 2013 7:00 pm – SXSW/Austin, Texas – Topfer Theatre
For well over a decade, the Gourds have made a career out of confounding expectations. Their backwoods appearance and down-and-dirty roots grooves suggest just another redneck party band, but beer-drinking and hell-raising don’t begin to cover all they do. Fronted by oil-and-vinegar singer-songwriters Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith, the band churns out songs of surprising variety, some hyperliterate, others maddeningly obtuse, and, yes, a few that qualify as beer-drinkers and hell-raisers.
The Gourds are the national band of Austin. Their junkyard sound crisscrosses the roots-music spectrum with a whacked-out, independent spirit. For their 10th studio album, “Old Mad Joy,” the fivesome recorded in Woodstock, N.Y., relinquishing production duties to Larry Campbell, an associate of Bob Dylan and Levon Helm. What you get is vintage Gourds with a coat of polish.
“It has the best of both worlds in that we are playing with a familiar passion to our live shows, but still all the parts are clear, present and well-placed within the arrangements,” said Kevin Russell, the band’s guitarist and co-singer-songwriter. “I don’t know that we have ever gotten it this perfect.”
The Gourds will play their first Texas show in support of the album in Beaumont, Mr. Russell’s hometown. You are not a diehard unless you experience Mr. Russell — the “Leadbelly” to his singer-songwriter counterpart Jimmy Smith’s “Lou Reed” — dispatch songs in the company of his aunts, uncles and cousins.
Courville’s, Sept. 22, 7 p.m. thegourds.com
Hello, MD! It’s Keith Langford here from the Gourds in Austin, Texas. I’m writing to tell about my recent experience recording at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York, a.k.a. the Barn.
The Gourds have been churning through the Americana music world since the early ’90s, with ten records under our belt. It’s impossible to play in our genre and not have great appreciation for the Band and of course Levon Helm’s drumming and singing. We were extremely fortunate to have been able to record at Levon’s studio and to have his guitarist Larry Campbell as our producer.
Songwriters Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith of Austin band the Gourds weren’t on the same page when they started talking about recording a new album.
Russell wanted to leave Texas — and all the distractions of everyday life — and work with an outside producer.
“I felt we kept making the same record,” Russell says of the band’s self-produced efforts. “It wasn’t a bad record, the songs were good, it was just starting to feel a little old to me.”
His solution: Leave Austin for the frosty confines of Woodstock, N.Y., where they could record in former Band drummer Levon Helm’s studio with musician and producer Larry Campbell, who made his mark with Bob Dylan during his “Love and Theft” period.
“When we make a record here, we make the record in between our lives, it’s hard to really focus on it,” Russell says.
Life was exactly what was happening with Smith, however. His wife was pregnant and he wasn’t crazy about leaving town. “I just didn’t feel the urgency to leave my wife in Texas when we could have used any studio in Austin and I could have stayed at home,” Smith says.
“This is the biggest night of our career,” Gourds accordionist/keyboardist Claude Bernard joked early on during the alt-country band’s album release party at Los Angeles’ Echo on Sept. 13. But the ear-to-ear smiles on concertgoers’ faces at the 350-capacity venue proved that it was an evening to remember. The Austin-based group was in high spirits forthe release of its Vanguard Records debut, “Old Mad Joy,” which was produced by Larry Campbell at Levon Helm Studios (aka The Barn) in Woodstock, N.Y. Cans of Tecate and peanuts (and a faint hint of the Ganja) flowed aplenty backstage before the show, where members of the Gourds, their manager, Joe Priesnitz, a documentary film crew, and a slew of Vanguard execs celebrated the band’s new relationship with the label.
It seems somewhat surprising, but even at this point in their trajectory, with so many fine albums behind them, the Gourds remain relatively unknown. A sturdy roots rock combo, they have a lot of elements in their favor – a steady sense of song craft, an able instrumental arsenal and, perhaps most importantly, a willingness to persevere despite any real lack of appreciation. Old Mad Joy, an album which finds them switching labels yet again, brings encouragement that the lack of awareness may be tempered somewhat, given its resolute performances, and what will hopefully become a real record company commitment.