Eugene Weekly : Music : 2.14.08

Squash Those Rumors!
These Gourds are the real deal

I knew exactly one fact about The Gourds going into this assignment: It was they, not String Cheese Incident, who recorded the bluegrass version of “Gin and Juice” that seven years ago burned its mislabeled way through the Napster universe. With so little background knowledge under my belt, I needed to rely on my finely honed investigative journalism skills. Two URLs into the case (one belonging to Wikipedia and one to MySpace), I didn’t have much. The Gourds do in fact have a MySpace page but, although it was created in June of 2006, it has not been updated since July of that year. The Gourds have no friends and no copy, and the only song featured on their page is the infamous Snoop Dogg cover. Wikipedia “confirmed” the facts I already knew and contributed only a band roster and discography. Unsatisfied by the answers the internet had to offer, I decided it was time to put on my headphones and find out who these downloadable but MySpace-averse fellows really are.

The Gourds’ latest album, Noble Creatures, is steeped in the Americana rock ‘n’ roll and bluegrass sound that has garnered them what I imagine to be a Leftover Salmon-like fan base. But while the band obviously likes to jam out, Noble Creatures delivers far more than ironic covers and extended noodling. The album contains a variety of unexpectedly tragic tracks, beginning with the third song, “Promenade.”

I traded your sweetness for my loneliness

Yer confidence for my own regrets

Yer simple grade for this disarray

That’s my stock and trade while you promenade

Lead singer and songwriter Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell brings a vocal depth to his delivery of self-penned lyrics on “Promenade” (and as well as “Last Letter” and “Steeple Full of Swallows”) that gives Noble Creatures an unassuming undercurrent comparable to the more underproduced work of Neil Young and John Hiatt. That’s not to say there aren’t some fun-loving ditties in the mix, most notably “A Few Extra Kilos,” a poetic tribute to excess and aging set to an infectious, Dylanesque melody and backed by gloriously stripped-down harmonies that will probably be a highlight of The Gourds’ live show.

Of course, after I listened to their album, my razor-sharp intuition clued me in to the fact that The Gourds might have their own website. Lo and behold, yielded all kinds of information that might have made my introduction to this band a little smoother, but I’m glad I got to know them without the backstory. According to their press material, the Austin-based touring machine’s sound has changed considerably over nine studio albums, “matured,” “evolved,” etc., etc. All I know is they can capture a moment in under three words, send a shiver up your spine in one bent note and the next moment get you bouncing gleefully in your seat. Whoever they are, The Gourds have earned a right to a serious fan base that doesn’t get them mixed up with String Cheese.

The Gourds, Shinyribs. 8 pm Saturday, Feb. 16. WOW Hall • $18 adv., $20 door