Photos by Barbara Misto
Better Than: Unshiny ribs. Download: The Gourds' classic cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice." In fact, just watch this:
Former Houstonian and Gourds frontman Kevin Russell is one of the few performers who seems almost unbound from convention and routine. His solo shows are, if not entirely impromptu, certainly not rehearsed like an arena show or thought out with military precision like 99 percent of the solo shows we see.
Pulling material from his band The Gourds, from his own album Buttermilk and Rifles, from heavy hitters like Tom T. Hall, Snoop Dogg and Elvis Costello as well as the public domain, Russell leans into his solo shows like few others on the regional scene. The guy literally seems to be lifting more and more weight on every song he sings as the evening wears on. And he does it all with a mad twinkle in his eye, a smile on his face, and happy feet that dance constantly.
The rootsy Russell has been kicking around the idea of a gospel album recently, and wasted no time reprising Tom T. Hall’s rowdy anthem of religious independence, “Me and Jesus,” which he plays with all the power of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in full voice. If he does cut a gospel album, “Me and Jesus” could certainly serve as a centerpiece.
While Russell’s own material like “Devil’s Song” or “I'm A Robot” can stand against anything, on this evening it was stellar covers of Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home,” R. Kelly’s “Feelin’ on Yo Booty,” TLC's "Waterfall" and Elvis Costello’s “Indoor Fireworks” that fired the rowdy Wednesday night crowd up.
He saved the Gourds’ cult classic cover of Snoop’s “Gin and Juice” for his last number, and all the Yuppies in sandals went down front and recorded the event with their cell-phone cameras. Russell’s surprising segue into Willie Nelson’s “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” in the middle of “Gin and Juice” was the most surprising musical moment of the evening, except maybe the nuts version of Jerry Reed’s “Amos Moses” Russell encored with, along with Roger Miller’s “Dang Me,” to close out a robust evening of funkadelic folknicity.
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Personal Bias: Gotta give props to any Americana folkie who covers Bill Withers’ classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Random Detail: Russell always switches up his ensemble, making each show unique. However, tonight he played solo because his piano player’s dogs got out.
By the way: The Volcano’s continued investment in sound equipment is paying off. – William Michael Smith