96 minutes, 2013, HD

“All the Labor”
Video Librarian
March/April 2014
by K. Fennessy

“With an assist from Fugazi drummer-turned-filmmaker Brendan Canty, director Doug Hawes-Davis’ documentary here profiles Austin roots band The Gourds (the quintet prefers the term ‘collective’ to ‘band’, as they’ve maintained the same lineup since 1999).  Drummer Keith Langford notes that the members hail from various parts of Texas, except for Shreveport-born accordion player Claude Bernard.  All are middle-aged men with wives and children, although the group clearly doubles as their second family.  Guitarist Kevin Russell chalks up their longevity to the fact that they’re still having fun, but expresses frustration over the way they defy easy categorization, stating that, ‘The Gourds are a difficult, tangled, complex, weird, awkward, mess.’  The group also features two singer-songwriters: Russell and bass player Jimmy Smith, who squabble like an old married couple, but the traits that have made the difficult to market have also enabled them to develop a following over the course of 10 albums and countless tours.  The Gourds also credit a heavily-downloaded cover of Snoop Dogg’s ‘Gin & Juice’ for bringing new fans their way, although this means they have to play it at every show in order to keep audience members happy (Langford says he doesn’t mind).  While most of the players come across as extroverts, multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston, who has worked with Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, seems more camera-shy, letting his musician father, ‘Dollar Bill’ Johnston, speak on his behalf.  Hawes-Davis organizes his material by members rather than chronologically, which may frustrate anyone expecting a conventional biography, but there’s a lot of music here for fans to enjoy, including live numbers and solo selections from Russell and Smith.  DVD extras include extensive bonus performances.  Recommended.”