14 Songs, 47 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Austin, Texas’ the Gourds are tough to categorize. Yes, they fit into the broad genre of Americana, but they are so averse to clichés, lyrically as well as musically, that nearly everything they do sounds fresh. In the past they’ve turned out comically ingenious covers of artists from David Bowie to Snoop Dogg, to give you some idea of their left-field leanings, and they continue that approach on Haymaker! with a song about fossils, a reference to Apollo Creed on “Tex - Mex Mile,” and this hilarious lyric from “Blanket Show”: “Freud was smiling/so was Jung/my heart was heavy/but my Fu was Kung.” A well-oiled musical machine, the Gourds rock hard, write ballads with emotional bite, and can turn out hard-stomping, fiddle-driven rave-ups that never come across as stale country-by-the-numbers. Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith share lead vocals and songwriting duties, and each has their own distinct singing style, which gives the album an added depth. After more than a decade of consistently solid music the Gourds continue to surprise and satisfy.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Austin, Texas’ the Gourds are tough to categorize. Yes, they fit into the broad genre of Americana, but they are so averse to clichés, lyrically as well as musically, that nearly everything they do sounds fresh. In the past they’ve turned out comically ingenious covers of artists from David Bowie to Snoop Dogg, to give you some idea of their left-field leanings, and they continue that approach on Haymaker! with a song about fossils, a reference to Apollo Creed on “Tex - Mex Mile,” and this hilarious lyric from “Blanket Show”: “Freud was smiling/so was Jung/my heart was heavy/but my Fu was Kung.” A well-oiled musical machine, the Gourds rock hard, write ballads with emotional bite, and can turn out hard-stomping, fiddle-driven rave-ups that never come across as stale country-by-the-numbers. Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith share lead vocals and songwriting duties, and each has their own distinct singing style, which gives the album an added depth. After more than a decade of consistently solid music the Gourds continue to surprise and satisfy.

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About The Gourds

The Gourds are a good-time, honky tonkin' band with enough quirk and underground appeal to justify the "alternative" tag in "alternative country-rock." Part of Austin's vibrant scene and popular performers at the city's national music showcase SXSW, the Gourds first gained the attention of the No Depression crowd with the drunken porch jam sound of their debut, Dem's Good Beeble, in 1997. The band's quirks came out more on its follow-up, 1998's Stadium Blitzer, with songs of questionable subject matter (not offensive, just truly befuddling) like "Plaid Coat" and the goofy "I Ate the Haggis."

Later that year, the Gourds broke through to college radio with a couple of covers on the live EP Gogitchershinebox. While their cover of "Ziggy Stardust" may have raised some eyebrows, it was the Gourds' galloping twang remake of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" that really captured listeners' imaginations. Unfortunately, the demise of Watermelon Records took their recordings out of print right after the release of their third album, Ghosts of Hallelujah, in 1999. Happily, Sugar Hill Records stepped in, and without missing a beat, the Gourds' fourth album, Bolsa de Agua, came out the following year. Over the next year, Sugar Hill also reissued the rest of the Gourds' existing catalog.

The Texas group started out with multi-instrumentalist/vocalists Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith (who also shared songwriting duties), accordionist Claude Bernard, and drummer Charlie Llewellin. In late 1997/early 1998, Llewellin was replaced by a longtime friend of the band, Keith Langford, who was kicked out of the Damnations TX when his bandmates saw that he wanted to join the Gourds but might feel too bad about quitting to actually leave them. Then, after playing banjo, fiddle, and more on Ghosts of Hallelujah, Max Johnston (of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco) also became an official member of the band. With the new lineup intact, the Gourds released Bolsa de Agua in the summer of 2000, Cow Fish Fowl or Pig in 2002, Blood of the Ram in 2004, Heavy Ornamentals in 2006, Noble Creatures in 2007, and Haymaker! in 2009. They also provided the score to the Mike Woolf documentary Growin' a Beard. The band inked a deal with Vanguard Records the following year, and began work on its tenth studio album. The resulting Old Mad Joy, produced by longtime Bob Dylan sideman Larry Campbell and recorded at Levon Helm's studio in upstate New York, arrived in October 2011. ~ Joslyn Layne

  • ORIGIN
    Austin, TX
  • GENRE
    Rock
  • FORMED
    1992

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