Austin’s Gourds are on a new label, but serving up the same quirky mix of country and folk. The band has always been oddly appealing as it uses guitars to drive its songs. Kevin Russell, Jimmy Smith, and Max Johnston lay down the glue for songs like “Kicks in the Sun” with layered guitars playing a simple riff that sticks in your mind. Same goes for the rocking “The Gyroscopic,” with a guitar figure that runs through and is impossible to forget. On occasion, guitars and vocals recall Robbie Robertson and The Band; cuts like “Moon Gone Down” has a thin guitar line that holds momentum, and even the lead vocal sometimes doubles the guitar line – not so much in call and response, but like the singer just can’t resist how good the guitar sounds. The soulful ballad “Promenade” again recalls The Band, full of fine rhythm guitar and a lovely fiddle solo by Johnston.
The Gourds have always been a thinking man’s country band and you can hear that on “Red Letter Day,” a stomper that mixes the great lyric with excellent lead guitar and other guitars twanging around. Finally, a flatpicked acoustic joins the electric duo to round out the sound. Guitars are again out in force on a rocking “Out On the Vine,” which features electrics, acoustics, and a host of loud, obnoxious bends. The very clever “Spivey” wraps things up with a swampy tremolo-and-slide guitar.
Each record finds the Gourds getting stronger and stronger, and with Noble Creatures they make a case for consideration as the best of the Americana bands.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov ’07 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.