Photo by Andy Goodwin
Unfortunately for The Gourds, they’ll probably always be best known for their
brilliant ridiculous brilliant ramshackle-folk reinvention of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice”. The bizarre remake was an early viral hit of the late-90s file sharing explosion, and predated countless bands trying to make a quick name for themselves with equally unlikely cover choices. The Gourds’ version though was no novelty – a genuine respect and appreciation for the chilled-out gangsta classic seeps through every battered note, and even a completely fried Snoop Dogg was into it. If you can listen without cracking up to a bunch of down home Southern boys singing about having “a pocket full of rubbers and my homeboys do too” while playing revved up bluegrass then I don’t want to be friends anymore.
Despite that song’s undeniably quirky appeal, songwriters Jimmy Smith and Kevin Russell have been churning out highly literate, witty, workmanlike, completely idiosyncratic folk-rock for 15 years that, at their best, displays a readily identifiable love for The Band and a mastery of about a half-dozen forms of distinctly American musical genres. Let a pair of hicks take Masters level writing courses and this is what happens. Exploring the band’s back catalog (9 studio albums and a handful of other releases) reveals a world of great songs to be discovered – “All the Labor”, “Rugged Roses”, “High Highs & Low Lows”, “Ghosts of Hallelujah”, and “Right In The Head” among the best of them. Former Wilco multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston even joined the band and showed off his songwriting chops on a few mid-period albums. His “Jesus Christ (With Signs Following)” and “Best of Me” are also among the band’s best songs and well worth seeking out. But today I’ve got disheveled harmonies of the high lonesome “Boil My Strings” on repeat from this criminally underappreciated band.
MP3 :: Boil My Strings
(from Stadium Blitzer. Buy here)