NASHVILLE It's strange enough that alt-country outfit the
Gourds covered a
COLOR="#003163">Snoop Doggtune. But now they're at the
center of what appears to be the first case of widespread mistaken
identity on the popular online shareware program Napster, with their
version of "Gin & Juice" mislabeled as a performance by jam band
The Austin, Texas, group recorded "Gin & Juice" for Go Gitcher
Shinebox, an album that was released on the now-bankrupt Austin
label Watermelon Records. The disc was available on the Web and remains
"My little sister played this song for me years ago," explained Gourds
member Kevin Russell. "I loved it
all along, but it took me a while to find a way to play it in my own
way. Rap is the last true folk music of the 20th century, a hundred-year span of American music that has reshaped the entire Western culture. So, 'Gin & Juice' fits right in with my love of American folk music from Leadbelly to Snoop Dogg."
It is unclear how the mislabeling occurred on the MP3-trading software
network. One Web story has it that Snoop Dogg was supposedly joined by
Dr. Dre and a hip-hop artist named
Phish on his version of the cut,
perhaps leading to the false Phish identification.
But Russell offers another possibility. "Some dimwit must have just
gotten some Phish [bootleg music], and maybe [our song] was tacked on to the end and not labeled correctly. I would love to know who that person was and why they did this."
Although management sources for Phish said they had not heard of the
song or its situation on Napster, the two groups do share an overlapping fanbase and style. Renowned dobroist Jerry Douglas and banjo player Bela Fleck play on Phish's latest studio album, Farmhouse.
A System Kink
"Gin & Juice" soon will be available under the Gourds' name as well, but
the labeling issue on Napster and its future implications continue to
resonate. "I have not heard of any other mistakes, but just the fact
that it can happen suggests a lack of integrity that could eventually
undermine this system as a tool for unknown or regional bands," Russell
Napster is a free software program that links its users online, allowing them to search for and download free near-CD-quality MP3 music files directly from one another.
When a user fires up the Napster software while connected to the
Internet, computers at the company's headquarters in San Mateo, Calif.,
automatically look at the MP3s on that person's hard drive. By default,
Napster then makes those MP3s available to other users.
Because it relies on users to provide the files and their titles and
information, error is almost built into the system.
Artists are fast choosing sides on the debate surrounding Napster.
Metallica, Dr. Dre and the Recording Industry Association of America have filed lawsuits against Napster Inc., charging that the company's program enables copyright
infringement. Meanwhile, Limp Bizkit is partnering with Napster to sponsor their free tour with
Smaller Artists View Software Differently
But royalties are not an issue to Russell. "I don't really care if
Metallica or any major-label artist gets paid more money than they
already have been paid. In the end, most bands worth their salt are
making a living playing clubs and driving in Ford vans all over this
great land. Selling records is good, but it will never be our bread and
Russell's comment begs the question of whether lost royalties are
balanced by heightened exposure for regional or unknown artists.
Alt-country singer/songwriter Todd
Snider, who just released Happy to Be Here on
Nashville's Oh Boy label, claimed he would be flattered if "anyone
wanted to take 10 minutes out of their day to steal one of my songs."
"Gin & Juice" will be available on the Gourds' upcoming Sugar Hill
release, Bolsa De Agua, due Sept. 26. "We have a new arsenal of
songs, some originals and some cool new covers," Russell said.
Additionally, Sugar Hill will re-release the entire Gourds catalog so
fans will be able to hear the vaulted Watermelon effort. The band also
plans to tour Europe and the United States for the next year.