Music

The Gourds: Shinebox

Andrew Gilstrap

The Gourds

Shinebox

Label: Sugar Hill
US Release Date: 2001-07-10
Amazon
iTunes

If you've been wowed by Phish's version of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice", then you'll be interested to discover that it's not Phish at all, but The Gourds. Briefly available on the group's out-of-print Gogitchyershinebox EP, the song spread like wildfire via Napster and tape traders, somehow never getting attributed to the right band. The release of Shinebox should change that, as well as cast light on this unassuming Texas band.

Stemming from Austin's formative alt-country years when bands like the Bad Livers made their mark, The Gourds are known as a thinkin' man's band, but their blend of all things rootsy circumvents any academic dryness the band might have hiding under the hood (no one will ever be able to accuse a song like "I Ate the Haggis" of being eggheaded). Shinebox reissues the original Gogitchyershinebox (minus the electric version of "Magnolia") with bonus tracks. Equal parts cover versions and original material both live and from the studio, the album shows where the band come from and the progress they've made over the years. If nothing else, it successfully portrays The Gourds as more than a novelty-laced cover band.

Of the covers, "Gin and Juice" is obviously the most striking. Mandolin-driven and played with a straight country twang, the song raises a smile for its word-for-word celebration of "bubonic chronic" and other trappings of the gangsta lifestyle, but its energy gives it a life beyond parody. The song actually translates fairly well into a hillbilly anthem. For more traditional choices, the band takes on "Dooley" (you might remember it being sung by The Darlings on The Andy Griffith Show) and one of Townes Van Zandt's more mysterious recordings, "Two Girls". They also do a nice job on Nils Lofgren's "Everybody's Missing the Sun" and B.J. Shaver's "Omaha". The only remake that doesn't work is their version of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust", due to the parodic, ultra-twangy take on Bowie's vocal style.

The original songs show the band fleshing out their roots-rock/bluegrass vibe. They don't come across as virtuosos, but the band's undeniable chemistry counts for more. They have definitely benefited, though, from the addition of Max Johnston. The former Uncle Tupelo/Wilco member's skills at mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and slide guitar patch up some of the band's noticeable early gaps. His songwriting has also produced one of the band's most evocative songs to date, the gospel-tinged "Jesus Christ (With Signs Following)" (from 2000's Bolsa de Agua). Gogitchyershinebox offers only four Gourds-penned songs, but they ably represent a band with plenty of poetry and irony in its toolbox. For example, the aggressive "Lament", about a preacher's visits to a sinner's home, juggles the short-term benefits of claiming religious virtue with the simplicity of avoiding the facade altogether.

Gogitchyershinebox comes out in time to capitalize on some of the excitement generated by "Gin and Juice", but its inclusion of several more covers allows the band to make a definitive statement about the sources and influences they're trying to bring together. A touch of Texas border poetry, a dash of Appalachian balladry, and yes, even a wee bit of West Coast G-funk: those and more are all worthwhile ingredients in The Gourds' melting pot of American sounds.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image