The Gourds

Blood of the Ram

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Scorch-porch? Beergrass? Hick-hop? All three tags have attempted, and ultimately failed, to successfully relate to the masses the eclectic bits of meat and bone that make up Austin, TX, the Gourds. The bandmembers themselves describe their Twilight Zone, sepia-tone, gravy-drenched fools-gold nuggets as "music for the unwashed and well-read," and that sentiment couldn't be more apt in illustrating the dizzying redneck poetry that runs rampant on their sixth full-length release, The Blood of the Ram. "Oklahoma has a dirty red mane/a Native American slot machine" is just one of the delicious images from co-founder Kevin Russell's ode to the "Lower 48." A spirited look at the nation through the windshield of a rusty tour bus, it's a fitting introduction to a collection of songs that are among the loosest and most road-trip-worthy of the quintet's decade-long career. The Gourds have always subscribed to the warts-and-all energy of recording live in the studio, and while Blood of the Ram retains all of the drunken barn jam whoops and missed cues of previous efforts, the troops are so well seasoned that even at their sloppiest -- Jimmy Smith's magnificently weird closer, "Turd in My Pocket" -- they manage to outperform most of their contemporaries in sheer enthusiasm alone. Theirs is a singular vision of local color ("Arapaho"), good old boys and girls gettin' caught and gettin' spanked ("Spanky"), and late-night treats both savory and illegal ("Cracklins"). Whether they're copping an obscure mid-song riff from Led Zeppelin's "Over the Hills and Far Away" or implementing bowed saw, Hammond organ, or a whimsically out of place penny whistle into the stew, the Gourds are in command and could care less how you think it sounds. In fact, it's a testament to their rustic charm, big vocabularies, and smoke-black Southwest humor that when Smith says, "You can't sh*t me/I already got a turd in my pocket," the listener laughs like an adoring younger sibling, despite having just been hoodwinked, again.

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