Monday, June 22, 2015

Documentary Review: All the Labor: The Gourds

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

All the Labor
Directed by Doug Hawes-Davis
High Plains Films / Big Sky Films / MVD Visual
93 minutes / 2013

In a time of really bad music, where the Top-10 is proliferated with the inanity of the likes of the Bieber, the Perry and sadly, now the Swift, it’s great to continue to hear great music, even if it’s from the past.

And speaking of inanity, in the center of that plus insanity, or as I like to call it: Texas, thank God for Austin, a sane safehouse for a state known for religious fanatics, Southern rock, and future fucktard failures to run for President.

Thus we come to the Gourds, a “genre-blending” band that they call (themselves) “just a rock and roll band,” but I would call them Country Rock and Roll. But mostly I would call them a shit load of fun. But I’m gettin’ ahead of myself.

These guys, who imply the standard instruments plus a variously an electric keyboard, fiddle, mandolin and accordion get down and have fun together. In their current form, they’ve been together since 1999, but they’ve been playing since before that and have over 10 albums out there. Coming from different parts of Texas and Louisiana, they settled in Austin and not only made it their home, have come to be identified with the city, often showing up in bar, clubs and especially SXSW.

Just as important, the quintet seems like a nice bunch of guys, and they certainly seem to get along pretty well. They also share lead vocals between the four front guys. Some songs are straightforward country/Americana, there are also songs about fruit and other seemingly random topics. That’s not to lock them in, though, because their cover of  Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” went viral. But the shots of them playing on stage, which are many here, they certainly seem to be having a blast.

Building the story of the band, both indivudally and as a group, there are one-on-one interviews, and also radio interviews (videoed during the talks). They explain how they are in a relationship, and it’s easy to hurt each other because they know each other so well, but choose not to do that. That’s a brotherhood.

What’s nice is a llot of the interviews are mixes from the last few years, rather than all new stuff, so you can see the changes over time. For example one member is show with his toddler in 1998, and then you see him in recent footage. We follow them on tours, in local clubs, at home, and other music-related situations, such as playing and interviews at radio stations, as I said previously. This is usually something bands hate for someone to say, but I get the impression that the band is their career, because no one talks about other jobs. That they make enough from these tours to survive means they are in nearly constant motion (tours)

One section shows them recording with Larry Campbell at Levon Helms studio in Woodstock, NY. This is introduced by the announcement of Levon’s passing, and the recording session, etc., is in flashback. It’s pretty obvious this documentary is many years in the making.

There are three sets of bonus material, including Deleted scenes, and alternative ones. What got me smiling though, were the 12 complete live songs. It’s all about the music, ain’it?

While this could actually have been trimmed a bit (by 20 minutes, perhaps?), but their joy is infectious, and that we get to hear so much music helps promote the band as much as their personalities. As someone says at about the halfway point, “Our greatest asset is that we’re fun, we’re happy, and we’re having a good time.”



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