The infectiously soulful Americana vibe that comes from a Shinyribs musical experience will surely be a highlight of Texarkana's Mardi Gras festivities on Saturday, Feb. 6.
Held at Front Street's festival plaza downtown, this year's Mardi Gras taps Kevin Russell, multi-instrumentalist and co-founder of on-hiatus roots music faves The Gourds, to perform in concert with his newest project, the Austin-based Shinyribs. They take the stage at 1 p.m. for a free concert, two hours before the Grand Parade starts.
Shinyribs evolved in recent years as a solo act for Russell, growing from a core quartet to now include horns and backup singers. Their Texarkana show sees the band at a moment when they've finished their fourth album (with an aim to release it later this year) but are still going strong on "Okra Candy," a Spring 2015 release.
Of "Okra Candy" with its songs like "Donut Taco Palace," Russell says, "It's a transitional record in the sense that half of it is with the original four-piece Shinyribs band." And the other half is with the horns, showing the shape of the band as it stands now.
No matter the lineup, Shinyribs were and are now a band that will inspire an audience to shake it and boogie down to some groovy-good vibes: soul, funk, country and pure Americana all in there as part of the musical stew.
"There will be a lot of dancing going on on stage," promises Russell, adding, "We'll do some Louisiana music, some swamp pop stuff." Expect a big show, something to make you dance to the horns.
Adding the horns element to Shinyribs seems like a natural, organic progression for Russell. "I've always had a love for big bands and brass and wanted to explore that style somewhere between Elvis Presley and James Brown I'm an entertainer. I think of that primarily as what I do best."
Exploring and expanding the stage show makes the live show experience more exciting. And for musicians, it's welcome, too. "To play with horns is a treat for a lot of musicians who've never done it," Russell said.
Shinyribs played the CASA Songwriters on the Edge of Texas concert back in 2014, and The Gourds played Quadrangle a bit more than five years ago. Anyone who's seen Russell on stage knows it's a unique sight that reveals the joy of music's transcendent qualities. It's also just plain fun.
"The fun of it is that for me it's almost a theatrical experience," Russell said. He can embody a persona on stage that may or may not be who he is. It allows him the freedom to be whoever he wants to for two hours. He lets it all go while on stage and finds the audience supportive. They want him to succeed.
"I am pretty fearless," Russell said. And for him, performing is cathartic.
"I get a lot from it. It fills me with joy, it really does," he says, noting it took years to get comfortable doing this. But he knows he was born to do it. After all, when he was only 8 years old, Russell tried talking his friends into learning instruments so they could start a band.
Now, with Shinyribs, a project where he's the boss and everyone in the band is along for a collaborative ride together, he gets to do what he was meant to do, free to explore things musically.
"I am literally living my dream. There's no doubt about it: lucky man," Russell said.
For Mardi Gras, he's happy to return to Texarkana, a place where he sees great color and vibes. Born in Beaumont, Texas, his family's journey took them to Shreveport, where he formed his first band, Picket Line Coyotes. He's plenty familiar with Texarkana, "a cool little town," he says.
Russell asks locals to "let it all hang out" when they come see the band perform downtown. He wants them to celebrate the true meaning of Mardi Gras for this occasion. That means having a blast.
"Let's all act in the spirit of Mardi Gras," Russell said.
(Admission is free. Shinyribs start at 1 p.m. with the Grand Parade at 3 p.m.)