Backbeat: The Gourds Celebrate Vanguard Records Debut Album At L.A. Release Party
Backbeat: The Gourds Celebrate Vanguard Records Debut Album At L.A. Release Party

"This is the biggest night of our career," Gourds accordionist/keyboardist Claude Bernard joked early on during the alt-country band's album release party at Los Angeles' Echo on Sept. 13. But the ear-to-ear smiles on concertgoers' faces at the 350-capacity venue proved that it was an evening to remember. The Austin-based group was in high spirits for the release of its Vanguard Records debut, "Old Mad Joy," which was produced by Larry Campbell at Levon Helm Studios (aka The Barn) in Woodstock, N.Y. Cans of Tecate and peanuts (and a faint hint of the Ganja) flowed aplenty backstage before the show, where members of the Gourds, their manager, Joe Priesnitz, a documentary film crew, and a slew of Vanguard execs celebrated the band's new relationship with the label.

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From left: The Gourds with manager Joe Priesnitz; Vanguard VP of artist and media relations Lucy Sabini; Gourds sound engineer Mark Creaney (red shirt); Vanguard director of national promotion Ayappa Biddanda (back row, middle); Vanguard senior VP of A&R and marketing Stephen Brower (middle, with glasses and beard); and Welk Music Group director of A&R Bill Bentley. Before the show, Bentley talked about his desire to sign the Gourds after meeting with Priesnitz and coming with the idea to pair the band with producer Larry Campbell. Next up for Vanguard is the Oct. 4 release of Merle Haggard's new album, "Working In Tennessee." Bentley says that one of the songs on the new release is about Haggard's brief stint living on a houseboat. The A&R exec joked that early on, some label folks thought that the set was perhaps a concept album about livin' on a boat in the middle of a lake. Apparently, Haggard was known to wear nothing but his underwear during press interviews on the boat, Betley said, laughing.

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Gourds bassist/vocalist Jimmy Smith channels the smooth taste of Mexico's finest cerveza while coming up with the night's set list, which included many upbeat new cuts from "Old Mad Joy."

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Through September, the Gourds have dates scheduled for San Francisco (Slim's on Sept. 16); Santa Barbara, Calif. (Lobero Theater on Sept. 17); Beaumont, Texas (Courvilles on Sept. 22); and Austin (Threadgill's on Sept. 23). There's also a documentary about the band in the works that could be released as early as next year.

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