The Gourds

Cow Fish Fowl or Pig

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The photo of the Gourds on the back of the CD booklet makes an odd impression: just a few good old boys, sloppily dressed with beers in hand, sort of a shorthaired version of Lynyrd Skynyrd. But this anti-intellectual pose is just a pose. The title itself, Cow Fish Fowl or Pig seems a bit fantastic, as though someone in the band had spent time in a Masters of English Literature program. "My Name Is Jorge" even includes surrealistic references to William S. Burroughs, Henry Ford, and Muhammad Ali. While this may sound a bit serious, the bandmembers balance their brainy wit with good-time Americana filled with fiddles, electric guitars, accordions, and drums. One of the Gourds' most appealing traits, in fact, is the way they change arrangements from piece to piece, turning "Bottle and a Dime" into Cajun-drenched rock and "The Prayer That Fell Upon the Mirror" into an acoustic feast. "Blankets" rolls along gently as the lyric tells the tale of a love affair that didn't quite work out. The album is split into two parts, "the cow brings home the fish" and "the fowl tells the pig of each transgression," and is divided by a spiritual rap delivered by the "Short Guy from 'Chi-Town.'" This guest rap has the same "this is real" quality as a field recording, as the Short Guy tells how Christ delivered him from cocaine and other evils. The only downside to this innovative band is a vocal drone that seeps into most of its songs, casting a depressive air over the material (think new wave Americana). The combination of intelligent lyrics and a rich musical stew, however, offers listeners more substance than the average roots band. Fans will find Cow Fish Fowl or Pig as appealing as anything the Gourds have recorded.

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