The Gourds on Italian Sandwiches, Jaded Nashville and Life in a Van

Categories: Inquiring Minds

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Photo courtesy Miller Outdoor Theater
The Gourds, Austin's loosest and most literate roots band, rolls into Dan Electro's Guitar Bar tonight. The occasion is the release of the band's latest album, Old Mad Joy. Produced by Bob Dylan/Levon Helm sideman Larry Campbell, the album has been getting positive reviews across country.

The band has been on a month-long tour that found them showcasing the new album in Nashville Wednesday night during the opening of the Americana Music Association annual conference in a time slot right ahead of local hero Hayes Carll. We caught up with Gourds fiddler/banjoist Max Johnston and pianist Claude Bernard just as they arrived home from Nashville.

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Rocks Off: What is your favorite song on the new album?

Max Johnston: It changes, but right now I'd say "Your Benefit." And I'm really liking "Want It So Bad."

Claude Bernard: "Your Benefit."

RO: Can you think of a song that you were skeptical of that has grown on you?

MJ: "Melchert." When I first heard it I was like, 'what?' But I really enjoy Kevin's [Russell] guitar parts on that one.

CB: I've got three: "Ink and Grief," "Drop The Charges," and "Eyes of A Child." And I quite like all three of those now.

RO: Which song takes the most work on your part and why?

MJ: "Two Sparrows" definitely takes the most concentration on my part. I've got to be right there all the time. On the record, there are double fiddle parts and Larry Campbell played a lot of that in the studio. In fact, I said he should've been given a credit on that. But anyway, there are really intricate fiddle parts with a lot of potential for egregious sonic badness, so I've got to be thinking the whole time when we're doing that one.

CB: Again, "Ink and Grief." It's a groove thing, and I'm not the world's greatest piano player anyway. Sometimes I hear it differently than Keith [Langford, drummer] does. So I have to concentrate and hold myself in line.

RO: What was your favorite part of doing the record?

CB: The Italian and tuna sandwiches from this place that Larry Campbell showed us. And of course, just working with a total pro like Larry. We made up our tentative arrangements of the songs, working them up in this kitchenette thing we rented, and it was a lot of fun watching Larry sorta scratch his head and think something over and then go 'let's try this.' He's a genius.


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