Kevin Russell has lived within two hundred miles of Texas’s Gulf Coast his entire life, growing up in Beaumont before hopping around Louisiana biker bars and bigger clubs in Austin with his band the Gourds. He maintains that there’s something about the culture that keeps him rooted to this geographical area: As Texas Music Matters found, eastern Texas and western Louisiana is a musical bouillabaisse of country, Cajun, zydeco, blues, soul, and pop, all fermented by the warm, humid air. So when it came time for Russell to title his new album under his alter ego Shinyribs, he settled on Gulf Coast Museum, a name that perfectly captures all the singular oddities of his sound.
Of course, those oddities are front-and-center in Russell’s main gig. The Gourds’ laid-back brilliance has earned them a huge following in Austin and beyond, and a feature-length documentary about the band is in the works. Amidst this low-key success, Russell has stepped out on his own for three solo albums, two under the banner of Shinyribs. When asked about his unusual moniker, Russell claims that a lady yelled that at him when he was handing out barbeque on a street corner. Within his universe, there are often more questions than answers, but that’s par for the course.
Gulf Coast Museum is a tour through this unique universe, featuring folk ballads, soul struts, and an aching cover of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” “Song of Lime Juice And Despair,” which Russell debuted recently in KUTX’s Studio 1A, is as free-wheeling as the title suggests. In the song, country dances arm-in-arm with disco for a combination Russell has slyly termed as “crisco,” but it could go by other names as well. “It’s this interesting piece of western music but with a surreal lyric over the top of it,” says Russell. “So that’s why some people call it ‘Salvador Dali-Parton.'” Whatever you want to call it, it’s perfectly Gulf Coast–and it’s perfectly Shinyribs.