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The Gourds
Cow Fish Fowl Or Pig
And
Kev Russell's
Junker Buttermilk And Rifles

Review By Steven Stone
Click here to e-mail reviewer

The Gourds Cow Fish Fowl Or Pig  Kev Russell's Junker Buttermilk And Rifles

CD Number: Sugar Hill SUG -CD-3953 and SUG-CD-1069

 

  When a new CD arrives in my mailbox I remove the shrinkwrap and put it in my "New CD's for review" shelf, then go on about my business. But when Cow Fish Fowl or Pig appeared I came home and immediately slapped it on my CD player. I love these guys: they are retro redneck rockin' rollin' Gods. Divided into two parts, "The cow brings home the fish" and "The fowl tells the pig of each transgression" the sequencing of Cow Fish Fowl or Pig displays the quirky dumb-smart intellectual stance that typifies The Gourds music.

The Gourds sound features not only accordion, but mandolin mixed in amongst the electric and acoustic guitars, upright bass, and harmonica. They create a neo-traditional American gothic sound reminiscent of The Band's "Music at Big Pink" frapped together with Los Lobos "Kiko," but with a psychotic twist. The lead characters in their songs tell stories of the American landscape seen from an outsider's eyes. In "My Name is Jorge" a Zelig-like fruit-seller reels off the names of famous characters in American history he's sold fruit to and the consequences of these sales. My favorite lyric is in "Foggy Blossoms (Mechanical Bride)" by Kev Russell "Said the apple to the snake, Yer erotic forks are a fake." Biblically talking apples? What do these guys injest?

Mixed among the musical mayhem are two even stranger bits of aural miscellany. The first is a field recording made in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the spring of 1999 outside Jaunita's Cantina, called "Short Guy Spiritual Rap (Short guy from Chi-town)." Lasting 2:42, the speaker describes his spiritual salvation from gang-banging and drug-running. It's weird, funny, powerful, and alarmingly real. After the last song, if you wait 40 seconds, you'll be treated to more warped field recordings. Sounds like the boys engaging in late night back of the bus rhyming in the tradition of the earliest "rounders" who would challenge each other to impromptu poetry sessions. Pretty silly stuff.

If Cow Fish Fowl or Pig leaves you longing for more Gourdlike musical weirdness, try a dose of Kev Russell's Junker Buttermilk and Rifles. This sideband, lead by the Gourd's mandolinist, guitarist, and sometimes singer, includes most of the Gourds, along with some additional musical hangers-on. A bit less raucous, with more acoustic instruments, Buttermilk and Rifles has a folkier old-timey feeling. The song "(Somebody Bring me a Flower) I'm a Robot" is almost Dixieland jazz, complete with a slightly ditzy trumpet solo. Russell updates the traditional tune "Wayfairin' Stranger" by morphing it into "Way Fallen Stranger." The new song has a similar mood to the original, but very different lyrics. Instead of entering heaven, "Way Fallen Stanger's" narrator goes to Beaumont, Texas. Same pew, but a very different church.

Although these two CD's were recorded in different Austin, Texas, studios, Jim Wilson at Yes Mastering imbues both with a similar high-fidelity funk. Just like the Gourd's previous Sugar Hill Release Shinebox, both Buttermilk and Rifles and Cow Fish Fowl or Pig sound super great. Even with gumbo-thick mixes, each instrument retains its own identity and aural space. The funkiness comes from the playing and arrangements, not self-conscious intentionally primitive recording methods. It doesn't matter what I use to listen to Buttermilk and Rifles and Cow Fish Fowl or Pig, be it my $60,000 super system (seriously) or a JVC portable CD player attached to $10 Yamaha computer speakers, these two disks have the ability to make me sing and dance.

The Gourds rock, the Gourds roll, the Gourds serve up music for your soul. Grab some Gourds, they are guaranteed to make you smile all the way to the Laundromat.

 

 

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