An interview with Kevin Russell (Shinyribs, The Gourds)

Horton Records is bringing Kevin Russell’s Shinyribs to Tulsa for a free show on Guthrie Green Sunday April 27 at 4:30 PM. Fans of Austin’s fabulous Gourds will recognize Russell as the mandolin and guitar picking vocalist of this thinking man’s party band, or as they say “music for the the unwashed and well-read”. While many grieved when the Gourds announced the band’s “indefinite hiatus” in 2013, much of what we love about that band, clever lyrics and booty-shaking grooves for instance, live on in Shinyribs. But don’t take my word for it, come out to the park and check it out for yourself this Sunday. Also on the bill are Oklahoma’s own Pilgrim and Honeylark beginning at 2:00 PM.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Russell about his music and the upcoming show. He’ll be bringing his full band, which includes brother-in-law and former Gourds’ member, Keith Langford, on drums. Russell has even added some horns to the mix. “I have a horn section, now…They’re called the Tijuana TrainWreck Horns. A saxophone player and a trombone player,” he told me.

It’s quite possible we’ll be hearing a few cuts off of Russell’s next album, Okra Candy, on Sunday. It will be his third Shinyribs’ release. “I’m just now finishing [it],” Russell told me. “It’s going to be really good. It’s going to be all over the map again genre-wise. That’s kind of the thing I do, have always done. I’m a genre-hopper,” he laughed.

Russell’s songwriting covers an array of topics. Food, fables, family – they’re all in there. He’s not afraid to hold and express an opinion, either, in his songs and in his personal life. “I’m an independent thinker. That’s how my parents raised me to be, just to think for myself. I’m irreverent and I’m rebellious, but I’m also a traditionalist, so I have strong opinions about things. It just depends on the issue. I try to be thoughtful about it and think about all sides of an issue before I make up my mind.”

His independence extends to his politics. “Some people I know think I’m George Bush’s best friend, and some people think I’m a communist,” he laughed. “It just depends on the issue and maybe my mood, even, what my opinion’s going to be…I can even change my mind if someone debates me well…I don’t make it personal. Politics, to me, isn’t personal. It’s just a matter of getting the right solution.”

A literate, deep thinker (or a “well-readneck”, as Russell would say), there’s more to Russell’s music than catchy hooks and memorable melodies, although there’s plenty of that, too. “There’s layers of stuff going on. If you pay attention and you get it, that’s great. But if you don’t, that’s fine, too. You don’t have to. A lot of people dismiss it from the get-go; it just doesn’t appeal to them. They think it’s just hootin’ and hollering’. But you know, you’re rewarded by a little more patience and a little more focus on it,” Russell explained.

“I do it for myself first,” Russell said of his songwriting. “First it has to feel good to me, then I can think about it a little bit and add this or that, maybe a little hidden comment here or there. Or some little subversive this or that just for fun. Just so I know there’s something in there that maybe most people aren’t even hearing or knowing what’s going on there, but I know, and it’s kind of fun. Like a little puzzle,” he laughed.

For more information on the Tulsa concert, visit Guthrie Green.


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Tags: Guthrie Green, Horton Records, Julie Wenger Watson, Kevin Russell, Shinyribs, The Gourds

Comment by Kathy Sands-Boehmer on April 27, 2014 at 5:52pm

Thanks!  Love finding out about people I'm not familiar with!

Comment by Karen HEck on April 28, 2014 at 9:36am

I love this band!  Looking forward to hearing the new album, and seeing them live.  Again.

Comment by Julie Wenger Watson on April 29, 2014 at 3:31am

Thank you both for taking the time to read the post. I caught the show on Sunday, and Russell and band were outstanding. If you have a chance to see the band - take it. Not only was the music great, but Russell danced all over the stage and right onto the floor with the crowd throughout the performance. He even led a conga line through the venue at the end of his show. One of the best live shows I've seen in some time. Super fun!

Comment by Zendelle on April 29, 2014 at 4:26am

Thank you for posting this. Though not a huge Gourds fan, I love all of Shinyribs' CDs and am excited to hear he's working on the next one! Would love to see him here in Maine sometime!

Comment by Karen HEck on April 29, 2014 at 6:51am

Fortunately Shinyribs play in my town (Austin and vicinity) fairly frequently.  Kevin did a Shinyribs show solo at a small venue and it was wonderful, though I love the whole band.  The addition of the horn section is fantastic!  I'm hoping they get booked to play Hardly Strictly Bluegrass this year.  That would make quite a conga line!

Comment by Marilyn on April 29, 2014 at 5:23pm

Love Shinyribs! Wish he'd bring them them to Chicago....

Comment by Julie Wenger Watson on April 29, 2014 at 6:33pm

Marilyn - I think the band IS going to be in Chicago! ; ) I thought I saw they might be playing at Fitzgeralds around the July 4 weekend…. Looks like a lot of great music. I love that venue!


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.