The Gourds

Bolsa de Agua

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AllMusic Review by John Duffy

Only a few groups (The Silos, Tragically Hip, Los Lobos among them) have ever come close to capturing the true spirit of the Band. Many have tried, but most have fallen miserably flat. Bolsa de Agua is album number four for the Gourds, but with the recent addition of journeyman alt-country six-stringer Max Johnson, all the pieces are in place: players with several instruments in their expertise, a compassion for a wide variety of traditional American music forms, a carefree studio vibe, lyrics that even when they seem tossed off are pure poetry, and distinct voices that can take on many different personalities. Mixing bluegrass, honky tonk, gospel, and a passing strain of Dixieland or Appalachian dance music (and spicing it all up with unorthodox arrangements), the Gourds have created as original a template for Americana music as that group that called Woodstock home did with their first two albums, Music From Big Pink and The Band. Even traditional-sounding country tunes like "Meat off the Bone" and "O Rings" are more than just exercises in genre, since songwriters Johnston, Jimmy Smith, and Kev Russell write with a dust-bowl poetic determination and a wry sense of irony. A country-gospel-like "Jesus Christ (With Signs Following)" is, in fact, a story on just how little a difference faith can make in the bitter realities of life.

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