Aplscruf's Music Blog

Shinyribs at The Sunset Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Sunset Tavern

Shinyribs

The Ganges River Band opened

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Shinyribs

Shinyribs

Stormy weather was moving in, but P and I were moving West to Ballard this evening to see Shinyribs, made up of Kevin Russell and Keith Langford from The Gourds.  Although the boys were just up here two weeks ago, they made the trip back for this solo-ish show and brought a couple of different guys with them to fill out the band, including Winfield Cheek on keyboards and Jeff Brown on bass.  We were interested to see what Kev would do with this new band.  I listened several times to the two albums on shinyribs.bandcamp.com , but was not sure how they’d fare live.  I knew I’d make comparisons to The Gourds all night.

We did the usual Ballard crawl around Market Street.  The light turned and we trolled for a parking spot for just a few minutes before landing the perfect spot just a few cars away from the front entrance of The Sunset.  That was a score because the rain was a-comin’ in a big way.

The Sunset was pretty empty when we arrived, but P spotted Mr. Russell and the band sitting at the front window waiting on their pizza.  We said hello, and they seemed to recognize us from The Gourds show, or at least recognize that we are giant fans from our big smiles and our dorky, waving arms. ha  We chatted briefly about seeing them just a couple of weeks ago and about their current mini-tour that would take them to Oregon and California.   Their pizza arrived, so we left them alone and found a spot at the bar.

We settled on a position, not too far from the stage.  A little country honky-tonk band called The Buckaroosters were on stage in bright, fringed western attire akin to Marty McFly’s duds in the third Back to the Future movie.  They rounded out their set with Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally”.

The Ganges River Band

The Ganges River Band

The crowd grew as The Ganges River Band set up and performed a quick sound check. The band included Country Dave Harmonson on pedal steel and guitar.  I ran into Dave right before the show and had a few seconds with him.  I loved his performance with The Swearengens last year at their CD release party.  We got to be right up next to his pedal steel and watch the pro at work.  I haven’t seen his equal since.  He gigs with several different bands around town, and even has a steady gig at Sea-Tac Airport.  Find him there between 10 and noon.

The Ganges River Band performed a clean set of country tunes.  Country Dave switched from steel to electric about ¾ through the set.  The lead singer announced this was going to be their rock ‘n’ roll part of the set.  Someone, of course, yelled out “Freebird!” and got everyone laughing.  Country Dave quickly responded with his middle finger raised high: “I’ll show YOU a free bird!” More laughter and clapping broke out through the growing crowd.

After their rocking country finale, Shinyribs took the stage.  It took a while to tear down and set up.  In the meantime, we ordered a delicious Flying Squirrel Margarita pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes, onions and basil with spicy red sauce on flat bread.  Fantastico.

There was a guy eyeing P’s bar stool earlier in the night, and their friendly back-n-forth banter about takin’- each-other-out-back-but-they’re-too-old made me chuckle.  He just wanted to get a beer, and slid in by P’s seat while P stood up to stretch.  What I failed to realize is that he was Winfield Cheek, the keyboardist for Shinyribs! Good grief.  I had an opportunity to talk to him, but blew it.  Oh well.  It’s pretty hard to talk in that environment anyway.  Way too loud.

The boys set up, sound-checked and got down to bidness.  Kev announced, “No ass-pinchin’, keep yer hands to yerself…” and other pre-flight rules and regulations, then rocketed into their two albums worth of what he later described as CRISCO: Country-Disco!  A new genre!  Like The Gourds, it is hard to nail down their sound into one genre.  It’s Americana, a little rootsy, a little country, but the keyboard changes the whole vibe to R&B on a few songs.  Kevin throws in some old-timey blues and gospel numbers and has the audience clapping along like we’re in a Southern Baptist revival.  And I love it all.

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I didn’t see a setlist, but managed to write down most of the songs that I recognized or that he called out throughout the set.  You can hear most of the songs on the Shinyribs Bandcamp site.  They started with “Devilsong” off their first album, Well After Awhile.  “Country Cool” followed, with lots of back-n-forth from keys to guitar.  Such a joyful sound—similar to The Gourds, but not as gritty.  I stopped trying to compare and just enjoyed their set.

Kevin went on to say the next song was an anthropomorphic song.   He first defined anthropomorphism for the less eddy-cated. I didn’t catch the title of this one, but it had to do with a big north wind hitting Henderson Swamp.  Swamp Funk.  I read an article in the Houston Chronicle that named Shinyribs’ style as Swamp Funk.  I like that.  The article gives more information regarding the formation of Shinyribs and the musings of Kevin Russell.

“Me and Jesus”  A Gospel revival song-I felt like I was in church, but in a good way.

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“Will the Circle Be Unbroken” –My thoughts went back to the Willie Nelson show from a couple of weeks before…by and by, Lord, by and by.  The clapping audience turned the show into a frenzied revival right there at The Sunset Tavern.

“Shores of Galilee” from Well After Awhile–Kevin said this song reminded him of the roller rink dances of his junior high days, and dedicated the song to all the roller rink girls of his youth.

“This is the first song off our new album!” he yelled, called “Sweeter Than the Scars” from Gulf Coast Museum and featured a long, repetitive jam session on keys.

The next song entitled “Sweet Potato” was also from the new album.  He introduced it by saying this was a song about his favorite root vegetable.  It is actually a beautiful, almost sexy ode to the sweet potato, or the sweet tater of one’s life, I suppose.  Falsetto vocals channeled his Marvin Gaye R&B side.  A mesmerizing guitar solo near the end of the song took it to a new level for the live show. “Baby, I’m a lover, not a hater/ Lay down for me, sweet potater.”

Another song I need to research is “Sugar Cane”.  I have the word “Electric!” in my journal followed by “Shake…that booty!”  Must’ve been a good one! [Since this posting, I found the song on Gulf Coast Museum.  It’s called “Bolshevik Sugar Cane” and yes, “shake that booty” is in the lyrics.   AND it made me shake my booty!]

Russell then mentioned they would be playing the Sisters Folk Festival in Sisters, Oregon next.  After that, they do a few more gigs around Portland; then they roll south to California.  A two-week tour, said Kev and Keith, is just about right.–just long enough.

Kevin then pulled out an old Leadbelly song that dates back to the early 20th century.  Leadbelly got his name from apparently being shot in the stomach five times and surviving.  He was a badass from Mooringsport, LA.  Kevin said, “We need this song now.”  Kevin sang his version accompanied by the mic and his clapping hands: “We’s in the Same Boat Brother!”  The audience dug this one and clapped along heartily.  It transported us to a different time and to a land far from here; and yet the words are still meaningful today.  Says Leadbelly, “There’s one world, and we all in it together.”

He then covered another “pure soul song” by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergrass called “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”.   Kevin told a brief story of Teddy’s stint as a drummer until he was given an opportunity to sing this song.  Teddy’s drummer days were over and he became a soul sensation.  Kev did the song justice and included it on Gulf Coast Museum.

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Jimi Hendrix’s “Wind Cries Mary” was next, as Kevin gave a nod to Jimi’s Seattle roots.  He used his little guitar, similar to a jarana, [CORRECTION: that is a 6-string Ukulele!] and did his own version of Jimi’s solo by picking behind his head and doing a faux tooth strum.  Fantastic.  I yelled, “Light It!” ha

He then covered an old English folk tune that he said came from the bogs, immigrated to America and became warped in The South.  I’m not sure of the title, but it was about a man begging for salvation from the hangman’s noose. Keith helped out on drums while Kevin dove into the role.  Near the end of his rope, he got down on his knees and prayed, and then lay right down on the stage.

Prayin' for salvation

Prayin’ for salvation

Shinyribs Down!

Shinyribs Down!

“Somebody Else” is a poignant, heartbreaking song from Gulf Coast Museum.

I had to take a restroom break before the next song.  I’m mentioning that here only because while in the restroom, I heard Kevin say the following: “Salvador Dali Parton”.  That is how he described his next song, which he also said reminded him of Dolly’s “Jolene”.  I came back to my place next to P and he’d also written the word “Crisco” in my little journal.  I asked him what that meant, and he said, “It’s how Kevin described their sound!  Country-Disco…CRISCO!”

“Poor Peoples Store” is a great little ditty, although more true-to-life that I want to admit.  That great divide of rich and poor is getting wider by the minute, I’m afraid.  Cha cha cha.

I believe there are a few songs I missed in here, and I might have some incorrect titles.  I just wanted to sit back and listen up.  The boys finished with a big jam session and the diminished crowd pushed forward and whooped along.  Unfortunately, this Thursday night’s attendance was a bit slim.  I thought the place would be packed, knowing how many people shove into The Tractor to see The Gourds.  People get wimpy on weekdays.  We planned ahead, though, and took Friday off.  No wimping out here!

Afterward, the crowd filed out to the sidewalk.  We missed Keith, but Kevin took a seat by the door.  We congratulated him on another great night.  I had to tell him: “Your music fills my soul!”  Kev raised his arms up and yelled, “Yesss!  Success!  Got another one!”  We laughed at this.  It’s so true, though.  Of all the bands we’ve seen over the years, The Gourds and Shinyribs move me like no other.  So in that respect, the two bands are similar.

After their stint in Oregon and Cali, Shinyribs will head back to Texas.  They’ll play Austin City Limits October 6.

 

September 8, 2013 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2013, Shinyribs, The Gourds, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , | 4 Comments

LIVE REVIEW: THE GOURDS AND JACKRABBIT

Kevin Russell of The Gourds

Check out my review on Randomville!  See below for more pics and more info about the show.

The Gourds, from Austin, TX stormed into town for another rollicking, foot-stomping performance, showing off music from their new CD, Old Mad Joy produced by Larry Campbell for Vanguard Records.  Jackrabbit, who played for Massy Ferguson in Mid-October, opened the show, and once again performed an excellent set of country rock and got the crowd moving.  Click here for a review of their show with Massy Ferguson.  

Tony Fulgham of Jackrabbit


Jason Montgomery, Tony's "Brother From Another Border--Oregon!" on Pedal Steel

Check out Jackrabbit’s website  to purchase their new EP!  Listen below:

Here is Jackrabbit’s setlist from The Tractor show:

What’s a Guy Gotta Do

Fathers and Sons

AZ Death Song

Done With You

Throwing in The Towel

I Know

I’m Sorry

Around the Bend

Big Kids (RAWKED!)

Jason and Tony

It was a pleasure to finally meet Tony and be able to exchange a few words before his awesome set.  We’re hoping to go to his next show in December.

Before The Gourds came on, we met a nice couple from Victoria.  Came down specifically for the show.  They were also at Tractor several other times throughout the year, and saw Los Straitjackets a few weeks ago, too.  I commended them for their long haul across the water and US border to get here.  I’m sure we’ll see them again.  They also enjoyed Jackrabbit and were looking forward to The Gourds.

The Gourds’ show at The Tractor Tavern featured most songs from Old Mad Joy.  It felt more like a rock show than a revival this time around.  Their new music has a 60’s psychedelic vibe, heavy on electric guitar, with psychotropic solos from Kevin Russell.  I could hear The Rolling Stones bleed through some of their songs; especially those from co-singer/writer Jimmy Smith, whose voice sounds similar to Keith Richards.

Jimmy Smith on Bass

Instead of going through a song-by-song description of The Gourds’ very long setlist, I thought I’d take a few paragraphs to explain The Gourds to those who have not experienced their live show.  The Gourds formed 17 years ago in Austin, TX.    They have 11 albums under their belts, and travel the countryside spreading the joy of live music.  They make appearances at SXSW, Bumbershoot, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and other festivals.  Their motto: “For the Unwashed and Well-Read.”

Max Johnston of The Gourds

I discovered The Gourds just by chance in 2007 while flipping through the TV channels.  They were featured musicians on Austin City Limits.   I then heard they were touring the Northwest, so  my husband and I made sure to buy tickets and saw them live at The Tractor Tavern in Seattle.  Their show felt like an old-timey revival in the Deep South.  The five-piece band played a variety of instruments, including electric/acoustic guitars, bass, drums, mandolin, violin, banjo, lap steel, and accordion, and Each band member is also so full of life and energy.

Kev, Jimmy and Claude

The Gourds’ original music, written mostly by Russell and Smith, is sometimes complex and so eclectic; it is impossible to categorize their music.  Their songs range from Tex-Mex country rock to Bluegrass to Cajun to something out of a church hymnal.  This latest album has more of a rock influence, although rock riffs and beats are scattered throughout their older music.

I get more salvation from their shows than I ever did in church.  My soul gets a lift, and I feel so alive–so fulfilled after their two-hour set.  They are a full body-mind-and-spirit show.  Each band member brings energy and puts their heart into each performance.  Kevin Russell, co- singer/writer, plays electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica and mandolin.  When he gets into the music, he stomps to the beat, gyrates, postures, poses, and throws his head around like a man possessed–or blessed.

A Grave Moment

The Gourds’ musical energy and rampant joy spills out over the low stage and floods the audience.  They stomp, wail, whoop, jam and generally cause musical hysteria.  When they’re in such a frenzied state, they are a sight to behold.  It is something that is hard to put into words.  The entranced (and possibly chemically altered) crowd responds accordingly, by whooping back, clapping and singing along, dancing and stomping in time.

Max and Keith

They also do a few covers, including T-Pain’s “Let Me Buy You a Drink,” and received some attention a few years ago after covering Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice,” with Kevin on mean mandolin:

At times, their lyrics are perplexing and undecipherable; but it doesn’t seem to matter during their live shows.  They could speak in tongues and the crowd would still embrace each song.

An excerpt from “Marginalized” off Old Mad Joy by Jimmy Smith:

saw this magnanimous bottom feeder look up at me
thought pond scum sucked ‘til i had a bowl of rat soup inside of me
well, it’s pretty good said this cat named Sneezeguard
couldn’t ever crowd his pan always got a proper sear on
just to find out that easily led could actually steer one

Over the years, every set and  show has been unique in some way.  They bring new songs mixed with old, different instruments, and different variations to the songs.  Shinyribs (Kevin Russell’s alter ego on acoustic guitar) might show up and play the opener with a mix of original and covers of old gospel and blues tunes.  The crowd ranges from all walks of life, from cowboys to college students.  The one time I didn’t bring my camera, a girl next to me kept her V-neck T-shirt pulled down pretty much the whole evening and flashed her recently purchased boobs to the smiling band (and others’ cameras).  Not to be outdone, a tall, skinny guy in a yellow T-shirt approached the front of the stage and pulled his shirt all the way up and rubbed his belly and chest, to the roar of the crowd.  That was the same night Jimmy’s bass got knocked over, smashed into the side of a beautiful acoustic guitar and made a big hole in it.

My most memorable Gourds moment this evening was approaching Mr. Kevin Russell at Hattie’s Hat and telling him I was going to review his show.  His response: “Oh, Shit!” I later gave him the ol’ two-fingered stink-eye when he noticed me in the audience, and I mouthed, “I’m watchin’ you!” 

A camera crew filmed the show during their most recent visit.  I asked Max Johnston who they were, and he said he didn’t know; they’ve just been following the band around like a couple of stalkers!  I suspect, with their new Vanguard label, we will see a DVD shortly.

Kevin Bending the Strings and Stalker Camera Man

On this chilly October night, we put our political differences aside and followed Jimmy’s plea to “Occupy The Gourds!”  The Tractor crowd warmly embraced their new music.  The older songs, worked in throughout the set, galvanized the audience who sang and shouted all the words.  My favorite moment came during their three-song encore, where they played “Burn the Honeysuckle,” or Kevin’s “cowboy brag” song, as he calls it.  His mandolin skills and gyrations are mesmerizing.

Here is a polished version of that song with an explanation of how he came about writing the lyrics:

Also, check out another encore song, “Mr. Betty,” by Jimmy, and hear the  Stones influence:

The long, frenzied night of soul-cleansing music came to an end, instruments and T-shirts intact.
MORE PICS!!


November 8, 2011 Posted by | Americana, Concert Season 2011, Jackrabbit, The Gourds, The Tractor Tavern | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gourds 7.9.2009

The Gourds at the Tractor Tavern
Thursday July 9, 2009

Ahh. Life is good…again. Now we’re back in the swing of things. We have held off the shows this year due to my unfortunate job situation. Life is interesting. Now I’m full time again, so we were ready to roll! The boy went to camp all week, so we were free. We enjoyed a movie one night (The Hangover, totally funny from the beginning to an ending that made my cry with laughter all the way back to the car) good dinners, and then The Gourds. Although we had to work Friday morning, we were ready for a great Thursday night out.

The Gourds are one of our favorites; they are always a pleasure to watch and just feel their musical energy. They were at their scruffy, “unwashed and well-read” best, although the lead singer looked a little more clean-shaven, having shaved off most of the beard and leaving a long goatee.

Shinyribs (a.k.a. Kevin Russell of The Gourds) opened with acoustic versions of an old George Jones song, and even one called “Let Me Buy You a Drink” from T-Pain, which he called his ironic song, since he’s afraid all good music will now be played with robot voices. He probably played close to 45 minutes.

Finally, about 10:00 The Gourds came on. I was yawning already from my long day, but was so excited to see them again. We were again right up by the stage, in our favorite place, close to Max, the banjo/fiddle/slide guitar player and close to the water and bathrooms. They played many songs I liked but didn’t recognize, because they are off their latest album [I purchased it right after the show]. They also hit the old favorites like “My Name is Jorge” and our most favorite, “Pill Bug Blues”. Besides the faves, they also got busy with some amazing revival type songs that got people clapping for Jesus’ return and some crazy song about possums! I get more spiritual salvation from their music than I ever did in church.

There was a crazy drunk guy in the audience right behind me with a rainbow cowboy hat and a shirt that said, “Marriage is So Gay!” Too funny! Kev got a kick out of him, to a point, but he kept interrupting him with long howls of, “We loooovvve Auuustinnn!” or whatever the subject was. I kept looking back to see if he was going to throw up on my head, but he eventually drifted to the back and left early.

The Gourds played in a near-frenzied state for about an hour and a half, and then slowed it down a little. And when they get to a frenzied state, they are a sight to behold. They all line up and wail on their instruments. It’s something that is hard to put into words.

About 11:30, I was getting really tired, but I couldn’t give up now. I told P before we left to go to the show that I might break my own rules and leave the show before the encore, but he didn’t believe me! I was so tired, and so overheated. It was over 80 degrees that day, and even hotter in the tavern. I kept pounding the water, but I really needed to just get off my feet and get some fresh air. It was getting pretty ripe in there with all the sweaty bodies. My fingers were getting puffy from standing so long.

Well, I made it to the encore, so then I just had to stay and see what they played. I believe they played 3 more songs, so we were glad we stayed to the bittersweet end. I was sad it was over and we probably wouldn’t see them for another year; but I was happy to be back in the air-conditioned truck.

The Gourds are just so dynamic. Not only does Kev Russell sing, but the bassist Jimmy sings at least ¼ of the songs, and his fiddler Max sings 2-3 songs also. And this night, even the accordion player got to sing. He wasn’t great, but it was a cute song with a good beat.

I recently heard of a book that I must buy called Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. He is a neurologist who has done studies about people’s reaction to music. I saw him interviewed recently by John Stewart.  I am definitely one of those people who react so positively from music. He explained that some people have a very pleasurable reaction to music, in the same way that people have sexual pleasure. In fact, the reaction stems from the same portion of the brain. That would explain many of my behaviors toward music! I could never put my finger on it before; until P started noticing me at concerts several years ago and pointed out that I react in such a similar way. I really need to read that book! [I have since read it and loved it, although much of it focuses on brain disorders and brain injuries.]

After the show, we headed to Dick’s for our usual Special and shared a chocolate shake. I think I got about 4 hours of sleep, then back to work the next morning!

Next up, Counting Crows at Marymoor Park for our anniversary!

February 3, 2010 Posted by | Concert Season 2009, Music, The Gourds, The Tractor Tavern | , , | Leave a comment