Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews

The Gourds
Sunday, Oct. 3, 5 p.m.
Arrow Stage
Reviewed by Mark Hedin

Charged with closing out the day's events, The Gourds, from Austin, Texas, stormed the Arrow Stage with smoke and drink in hand, well-provisioned for a party.

The five piece, 10-year-old band - guitarist Kevin Russell, accordionist Claude Bernard, bassist Jimmy Smith, drummer Keith Langford and multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston (late of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco) - opened their set, appropriately enough, with "Web Before You Walk Into It," with its refrain, "Everybody will go crazy" off their 1997 debut album, Dem's Good Beeble.

With the crowd on its feet and ready to boogie, primed by Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings' mesmerizing set, Johnston and his mandolin stepped up to offer Billy Joe Shaver's lyrics about how he "rode my thumb to San Francisco / Worked down by the bank" from the song "Omaha," which the band recorded on Shinebox, their out-of-print album from 2001.

"He'll kick your ass," Smith said of fellow Texan Shaver. "The only one to ever kick Billy Joe Shaver's ass was Waylon Jennings. Willie Nelson refereed."

The band rolled through Merle Haggard's "The Old Man From the Mountain's Coming Home," with solos from Bernard on accordion and Johnston on fiddle, and the '60s garage-band Standells' hit, "Dirty Water," sung by Smith with Johnston on lap steel.

"Lower 48" ("something for the INS of the U.S."), from the Gourds' imminent seventh release, Blood of the Ram, followed.

"This is just like it was the day I got married - the weather," said Russell, who was sporting a white cable-knit sweater as the fog and chilly ocean breeze rolled in from the nearby Pacific. "This is our first time here. We're really happy to be part of this event," he said, his breath condensing in the cold as he spoke before breaking into "Ghosts of Hallelujah," the title track from their 1999 album.

The band wrapped up its set with "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," a song they recorded for a Doug Sahm tribute album, and "Do 4 U." The crowd's roar brought them back for "Spanky," like "Do 4 U," a track from Blood of the Ram.

"Go get that record, it's educational," Russell said, and sent the crowd packing with the exhortation "Let's go see Emmylou Harris!"

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