The Texan roots-rockers The Gourds start 2006 with their best album yet, a gnarled yet joyous blend of banjo, fiddle, accordion, rock backbeat and keening Appalachian-flavoured harmonies that manages to sound distinctly their own whilst arousing all manner of laudable comparisons. "TTT Gas" - an acronym for "too tired to give a shit" - is a beatnik polka-rocker in splendid Doug Sahm style, and country rocker "Wired Ole Gal" an astute exercise in Meat Puppetry, while "Blood of the Ram" sounds like the kind of dark, blasted-heath sinner-man material that would have suited Johnny Cash. Best of all, though, is "Escalade", an extraordinarily accurate Al Green homage in which Kevin Russell's pained falsetto eases elegantly through a country-soul arrangement of burring organ and fastidious guitar details. Russell alternates songwriting duties with bassist Jimmy Smith, their disparate modes - respectively, frisky cajun-rock singalongs and aggregations of more mythopoeic rural-streetwise imagery - being united by a sardonic but big-hearted manner and an affinity for weird, suggestive constructions, perhaps best represented by the line "Prop yer feet up on a demon and sip that morning dew".
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