On Shinyribs’ first album, 2010’s Well After Awhile, Kevin Russell doesn’t branch out much from his roots as a founding member of The Gourds. Songs like “(If You Need The) 442” and “East TX Rust” carry on the whimsical alt-country tradition Russell started slinging two decades ago. Blending electric and acoustic guitars, upbeat rhythms and infectious lyrics, the Texan is a great listen under any moniker. “My husband sleeps hard from his years on the run/ My daddy sleeps a lot from his years in the war/ and the cats outside sleep all right,” he sings on “442” with a touch of twang and a range as long as his silver beard. But since that album, Russell hasn’t limited himself solely to satisfying cravings for more Gourds, who went on hiatus last year. On 2013’s Gulf Coast Museum, Shinyribs’ slow and soulful songs resonate best as Russell takes further advantage of the opportunity to be a lead writer. “Limpia Hotel (Chihuahua Desert)” is as pensive and spacious as a drive across West Texas, and “Sweet Potato” gives the listener a bluesy falsetto to chew on.
Shinyribs started as a side project, with Russell playing solo shows once a month for extra cash. He quickly picked up former Gourds drummer Keith Langford, bass player Jeff Brown and Winfield Cheek on the keys and shifted more attention to his new band. A live video of them playing the catchy “Bolshevik Sugarcane” in Austin shows an animated group of friends doing what they obviously love. With the Gourds gone we need that energy. Shinyribs will bring it to Missoula and, if we’re lucky, keep bringing it for years to come.
Shinyribs plays the Top Hat Thu., Aug. 21, at 8 PM. $15/$12 in advance.