Friday Night: The Gourds & Doyle Bramhall Sr. At Miller Outdoor Theatre
It was all Texas big beat Friday night as old-school Austin blues-rocker Doyle Bramhall Sr. and those funny, funny Gourds cut a groove in the Miller Outdoor Theatre stage.
Bramhall, a key vocal influence on Stevie Ray Vaughan, brought along a secret weapon in his compact threesome: Longtime Austin roots rock veteran Casper Rawls, who pulled yeoman's duty on rhythm and lead guitar with the flair and aplomb of someone who played with Buck Owens back in the day after Don Rich's untimely death.
And while Bramhall steered the ship, tom-tomming away behind his microphone, Aftermatth couldn't help but feel like a fourth instrument - another guitar, or perhaps a keyboard - would've added both power and depth to the set. Still, as Texas power trios go, this is probably as good as we're ever likely to get.
The Gourds, fresh off sessions for their new album Old Mad Joy, took the stage as the last vestiges of twilight faded and breezes swept across the theater, cooling the crowd. But it was immediately apparent that the band hadn't come to cool anything off, exhibiting something of a newfound freshness and energy as they rocked off into the outer spheres with Jimmy Smith's "All the Labor" like they couldn't wait to get out of the dressing room and in front of an adoring crowd.
The Gourds' Kevin Russell
Kevin "Shinyribs" Russell followed with a release of his gospel-ish bent on "Hallelujah Shine," and it was definitely on as the band quickly burned through "LGO," "My Name Is Jorge" and a smokin' version of "Lower 48" ("married my cousin in Arkansas/ Married two more when I got to Utah").
Demonstrating the newfound vocal diversity that the band has professed Bob Dylan/Levon Helm producer Larry Campbell drug out of them during sessions for the new album in Woodstock, N.Y., the band proceeded to pass vocal duties around to everyone but drummer Keith Langford, who is almost too busy with his polyphonics to take time to sing lead vocals.
And as per the usual Gourds playbook, there was all sorts of instrument-switching, even to the point of keyboardist/sometimes rhythm guitarist Claude Bernard playing electric lead for one tune. As always, multi-instrumentalist (mandolin, banjo, fiddle, rhythm guitar) Max Johnston turned in an understated lesson in roots-rock virtuosity.