Archive for the The Gourds Category

ReviewShine Wednesday: Shinyribs and Wynntown Marshals

Posted in Shinyribs, The Gourds, Wynntown Marshals on June 9, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Every Wednesday, I feature a quick review of at least one album that has been submitted to me through the ReviewShine website. I have cleverly titled this recurring segment “ReviewShine Wednesday.”

When I clicked on the sample track for the album Well After a While by an artist from Austin, TX named Shinyribs, I was a little taken aback. I was pretty sure I had never heard of Shinyribs before, but the voice I was hearing was certainly a familiar one. It unmistakably belonged to Gourds frontman Kevin Russell. I was a tad confused. As it turns out though, Russell is Shinyribs, and Shinyribs is Russell. The face of The Gourds was stepping out with a solo project on the side.

The album is due out next week, and is billed as showcasing Russell’s more serious side. There are no country hip-hop covers like the “Gin & Juice” tribute that put The Gourds on the map over a decade ago. The only cover here is stripped down and somber version of Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come.” In fact, Russell plays it straight on most of the record by combining thoughtful lyrics with loping country grooves to great effect. Russell still has a playful side too… as evidenced by songs such as the ode to his favorite frosty beverage, “Country Cool,” and the dollar store rag, “Poor People’s Store.”
Shinyribs: Who Built the Moon (Buy Album)

Today’s second act comes to us all the way from Edinburgh, Scotland but creates a sound that is pure Americana (not that there is any real geographic distinction inherent in that word anyway). The Wynntown Marshals are composed of vocalist/guitarist Keith Benzie, drummer Keith Jones, steel guitar player Iain Sloan, lead guitarist Iain Barbour, backing players Simon Ritson (bass) and Ali Petrie (keys), and an obvious love for a classic alt-country sound. The band readily admits its debt to acts such as Neil Young, The Jayhawks, and Uncle Tupelo, and I’m not the only blogger to notice Benzie’s vocal similarities to Jeff Tweedy.

The album begins with the one/two punch of the guitar drenched original “You Can Have My Heart” and a countrified cover of LA Guns’ “Ballad of Jayne.” Things stay strong from there with songs about the world’s only albino gorilla (“Snowflake”), an unfortunate Greyhound trip (“48 Hours”), and American pin-up artist Gil Elvgren (“Gil”). Each song is built around strong country/rock grooves with plenty of twang… a strong album from start to finish. It’s scary to think that this is just The Wynntown Marshals’ debut release.
Wynntown Marshalls: 48 Hours (Buy Album)

Americana Music Awards Nominees ’09: Song of the Year

Posted in Americana Music Awards 09, Buddy and Julie Miller, Kasey Chambers, Patty Griffin, Rodney Crowell, Shane Nicholson, The Flatlanders, The Gourds on August 28, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Last week, I previewed the nominees for “Best New & Emerging Artist” at this year’s Americana Awards and Honors and asked you to vote for who you thought should win. You chose The Band of Heathens by an almost two-to-one margin over Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles.

This week, we’re going to dip into another category and ask you to vote on the “Americana Song of the Year.”

We’ll start with “Chalk” by Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin from Buddy and Julie Miller’s 2009 release Written in Chalk. Julie wrote the song, but does not appear on the track… opting instead to let Patty Griffin lend her beautiful voice to provide the soaring harmonies to Buddy’s soulful and grounded baritone. It was the right choice. Lyrically, the song is a classic Julie Miller tune full of heartache, heartbreak, burdens carried, and promises written in chalk that are easily erased. The musical accompaniment is mostly subdued… strummed acoustic guitars, resonant drums, and soft piano flourishes… but the vocal performances of Buddy and Patty make the song an absolute powerhouse.

Buddy Miller & Patty Griffin: Chalk (Buy Album)

The perfect counterpoint to the restrained heartbreak of “Chalk” is the unbridled joy and energy of “Country Love” by The Gourds from their 2009 effort Haymaker. Vocalist Kevin Russell sets the tone for the song by shouting the opening line, “Wake up! We’re going to the country.” For the next 2:45 the listener is taken on a hayride through the backwoods… a place where sweet potatoes are divine, you can actually see the stars away from the city lights, and a little “country lovin'” can make everything alright. Accordions, twangy guitars, and shouts of joy fill the track. If you can’t dance to this one… you may just not dance at all.

The Gourds: Country Love (Buy Album)

We’re brought back to reality a bit by the third nominee, “Homeland Refugee” by The Flatlanders from their 2009 effort Hills and Valleys. On this track, Flatlanders Joe Ely, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock create a moving narrative by invoking imagery from past eras of American hardships such as The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl to illustrate some of the financial hardships being faced by many Americans today. Ely takes lead vocals on the track and tells of a protagonist forced to leave his home on the coast and return to a simpler life in middle America. He returns along the same path his forefathers used during our country’s time of expansion when people looked to the west to find better fortunes. A lyrical nod to Woody Guthrie only drives home the point that our “Pastures of Plenty” aren’t so plentiful anymore.

The Flatlanders: Homeland Refugee (Buy Album)

That brings us to “Rattlin’ Bones,” the title track of the 2008 release by Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson. The husband and wife team of Kasey and Shane take a few cues from the Carter Family on this track that is a true celebration of the roots of country and folk music. The instrumentation is sparse with just guitar, banjo, and drums. Kasey and Shane share the lead vocal in a back-and-forth style and combine to craft haunting harmonies in the chorus. The concept is simple, but the execution is flawless. I don’t care if it comes from Australia… this IS Americana music.

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson: Rattlin’ Bones (Buy Album)

Our final nominee this year is the title track from Rodney Crowell’s 2008 effort Sex and Gasoline. As you may recall, I was a little underwhelmed by Rodney’s latest effort when it was released… but this track had nothing to do with that. The song is an indictment of a sexist society and a popular culture that bases a woman’s worth solely on her beauty and youth. Or to put it in Rodney’s words, “You ain’t nothin’ but the shape you’re in.” There is something wrong with a society in which a 30-year-old woman is looked upon as an “old hag.” Of course, Rodney Crowell has never been afraid to call a foul when he sees one.

Rodney Crowell: Sex and Gasoline (Buy Album)

As for who should and will win this one I think I’m going to have to go with Buddy and Patty on both counts. Buddy is the most awarded artist in the history of the Americana Music Awards, and he’s leading the house band for the awards show again this year. Patty is also a past winner at the awards and sports what may be the best voice in the industry. The dark horse here may be The Flatlanders. Voters for this award have gone for topical songs in the past, and this one is timely without being transparent.

My vote (if I had one): Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin
My prediction: Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin