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               Kevin Russell already has one band of note in the shape of The Gourds, longtime favourites of the Americana scene. It seems his side project, Shinyribs, could be even bigger news on the back of their second album with its infectious blend of Gulf Coast sounds and sweet soul music. The soul comes courtesy of Russell’s extraordinary voice, which combines that soulful feel swelling from within with a relish for drawing out the sound of a word whilst frequently eliding it smoothly into the next one. He has such a fit for soul music that it’s no surprise that he closes the album with a cover of If You Don’t Know Me By Now; on this he gets some sweet accompaniment from Brandy Zdan on harmony vocals – it’s just their voices and Russell’s ukulele playing. The result is more personal and intimate than the polished melodrama of the original though I have to say it doesn’t quite come off for my money – maybe not quite personally felt enough to really convince.

                 Elsewhere though, the eight original songs – “tall tales from Texas”, he calls them – are full of fun, a smorgasbord of sounds that sometimes puts me in mind of Dr John, for one, and Little Feat for another, but never actually sounds quite like anyone else. There’s a loose-but-tight groove going on as if everybody in the band has license to take things where they please, though in truth they’re all dancing to the tune laid down by the man at the centre of things, his voice powerful enough to drive through the musical bedlam of Bolshevik Sugarcane and characterful enough to convey his sly good humour.  

                The opening track, Sweeter Than The Scars, is probably the best synthesis of all the good things on this album: a playful, bouncy rhythm puts a smile on your face whilst Russell’s laid-back vocal slips into sweetly soulful drawn out notes at the end of each line. Sally Allen’s harmonizing vocals are soft and easy while the old ukulele sounds like the instrument for all seasons. It’s a fine band he has here: Keith Langford on drums, Winfield Cheek on keys and Jeff Brown on bass are capable of conjuring up whatever is asked of them and, just for example, that opening song is bookended by harder edged sections serving as intro and outro . The band slip from one mode to the other as easily as breathing and, as if that wasn’t enough, sound like a great soul band on my favourite track, the wonderful Sweet Potato. The understated blue mood they produce here is really beautiful, as good an accompaniment to Russell’s pure soul vocal as you could wish for.

               There’s something a bit scattergun about Gulf Coast Museum as it jumps around in style and that maybe makes it a little difficult to latch onto what’s going on. I really connected with it when I was on a long road trip one day and got a chance to relish all the imaginary scenes that Russell’s fertile imagination was taking me to. He’s the sort of writer and performer that, once you’ve “got” him, will keep you coming back for more, in whatever guise he’s appearing.

                 

John Davy

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1
Rod Picott
70 pts.
Out Past The Wires
Welding Rod Music
GC,AN,LM,SZ,TK
2
JW Roy & The Royal Family
62 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,PJ,DH
3
Steph Cameron
61 pts.
Daybreak over Jackson Street
Pheromona
ML
4
JD McPherson
54 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
AR,RK,LK
5
Sarah Morris
53 pts.
Hearts In Need Of Repair
Independent
 
6
Turnpike Troubadours
52 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
MA,GF
7
Chris Hillman
51 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
 
8
Hayward Williams
39 pts.
Pretenders
Why River Records
KG,JB,JBO
9
Joe Henry
38 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
 
10
Jim White
37 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
JJ
12
Margo Price
35 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
 
11
Mark Martyre
35 pts.
Rivers
Independent
MF
13
Mavis Staples
32 pts.
If All I Was Was Black
Anti
HO
 
Peter Oren
32 pts.
Anthropocene
Western Vinyl
RB,HB
15
Fred Wickham
29 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
 
16
Jeffrey Martin
27 pts.
One Go Around
Fluff & Gravy Records
HDB
17
Blitzen Trapper
25 pts.
Wild and Reckless
Lojinx
JDO
 
Jeff Crosby
25 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records
FCE,FC,JS
19
Dori Freeman
24 pts.
Letters Never Read
Blue Hens Music
 
 
Hardpan
24 pts.
Hardpan
Blue Rose Records
WR
21
The Deep Dark Woods
21 pts.
Yarrow
Six Shooter
JF
22
Lilly Hiatt
20 pts.
Trinity Lane
New West
TJ
 
Tom Russell
20 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
JAB
24
Eilen Jewell
19 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
MW
25
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
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