Very few great bands stick it out long enough to get a documentary made about their uniqueness and unmarketability. It takes years of touring, recording, suffering, frustration, and sheer doggedness to be recognized as one of the last bands standing. In the Gourds' case, about 18 years. Their website once proclaimed them as "music for the unwashed and well-read" and it's a pretty apt description of the weirdly creative Austin-based roots rock combo who have slow-cooked their way into Lone Star mythology since their 1996 debut. Led by co-singer/songwriters Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith, along with mainstays Claude Bernard, Max Johnston, and Keith Langford, the Gourds have always followed their own star, embracing a distinctly Southern charm that seems like it should shoehorn them neatly into country, Americana, bluegrass, R&B, or any of the other subgenres of American roots music, but never quite does. Their ramshackle obscurity and artful songwriting (which is probably their greatest asset) have always kept them outside of any mainstream circles and left publicists, labels, and many potential fans scratching their heads. Thankfully, documentarian Doug Hawes-Davis recognized what a core group of fans have known for nearly two decades, and preserved the band's unique story and some of their most inspired performances with his feature film All the Labor. Filmed during multiple tour dates from 2011 and 2012, the film's soundtrack captures 18 classic, career-spanning songs from a very well-seasoned group of musicians who display both the tightness of many years together on-stage and the loose camaraderie of just as many years in the van.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger