Kevin Russell has covered a lot of Texas ground in his nearly 30 years as a touring musician. As a founding member of the now-disbanded Austin group the Gourds, and now with the band Shinyribs, Russell has played hundreds of shows in all sorts of settings across the state. We asked him about some of his favorite places to play—and eat—across the Lone Star State.
TH: About how much time do you spend on the road?
Kevin: At the height of the Gourds, we were doing 160 days a year. That’s about what Shinyribs has done the past two years, 150-160 days.
TH: A big portion of that is in Texas, is that fair to say?
Kevin: Yeah, but I been all over the world. Europe and America. The Gourds toured Europe a lot back in the day. You go over there for two months or something and you stay there and travel all over. But Shinyribs touring-wise is more of a regional thing, and that’s kind of by design. I don’t really want to go all over the place anymore. I’ve already done that.
TH: What does regional encompass?
Kevin: I’d say Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana.
TH: It seems like you get around Texas pretty broadly.
Kevin: Yeah. In Texas there’s lots of work. Some guys just stay in Texas. They never leave. There’s plenty of work for them. And I think that’s great, you know. I mean you resign yourself to a certain experience. I think it’s good every now and then to get out of Texas and play for other people. When we get festivals somewhere that’ll take me out. We played Winnipeg Folk Festival this summer. We just went and played the Albino Skunk Festival in South Carolina for a bunch of crazy hillbillies out there.
TH: What are some of your favorite venues in Texas?
Kevin: Gruene Hall, of course. And the place where I formed Shinyribs is in Houston, called Under the Volcano. So that will always be a special place. Threadgill’s [Austin], of course, the Paramount and State Theatre downtown [Austin], those are both great places. The Kessler Theater in Dallas is a great venue.
TH: What about venues in more far-flung places?
There’s a place in Beaumont called Courville’s that’s great. It’s run by a guy named Big Rich Courville. It’s a big catering business. But he’ll do big shows there where he’ll have us, or Hayes Carll, or Uncle Lucius, people like that, and he’ll sell tickets and you get a meal and a show for one ticket. And then there’s a gun raffle for every show, somebody wins a gun. It’s a cool place.
There’s a place in Temple we just played, a really great venue, O’Briens Pub. It’s a great, great venue. Love it.
And then, we played a place in Eden, Texas, called the Green Apple [Art Center] that’s a really cool venue. When you think of Eden, you think there’s a prison there, that’s all you think of. But there’s some cool people there doing some cool stuff. There’s some cool stuff going on out there.
TH: Does Shinyribs play much in West Texas?
Kevin: I go out to the Panhandle—Amarillo and Lubbock—quite a bit. I like playing out there. There’s a place called the Blue Light in Lubbock and then the Golden Light in Amarillo. There’s a place in Amarillo that we played with some friends, we opened for them there, called Midnight Rodeo, that I just loved. I felt like I was in Urban Cowboy, a total ’80s honkytonk. It’s so cool. I love it.
TH: All that time spent on the road, do you have any tips on places to eat, places you love to stop?
Kevin: Czech Stop [West], of course. You can’t not stop at Czech Stop, everybody knows that. There’s the Gator Junction [Wallisville] on the way to Beaumont. And there’s Al-T’s in Winnie. It’s just a little Cajun place. I like it. And Hruska’s [Ellinger]—I always stop at Hruska’s.
Stanley’s Barbecue in Tyler is great. There’s a great bar in Dallas you should go to in East Dallas in the Lower Greenville, Ross Ave. area, Ship’s. It’s a great place to get a beer, and the jukebox is great.
In San Antonio, Chris Madrid’s, speaking of great burgers. And in South Padre, Dirty Al’s, that’s the place to eat. We get that seafood botana, filled with that shrimp. Oh my God, I love it.