Austin’s Gourds have often been compared to the Band, and their recordings, including last year’s Bolsa de Agua, do reflect that rare ability to fuse numerous strains of American roots music into a single distinctive sound. But the Gourds exist here and now–and they don’t try to pretend otherwise. They’re undoubtedly the only act on the roots-oriented Sugar Hill label to have covered a Snoop Dogg tune (“Gin and Juice,” which they transform into a desert outlaw anthem), and though they’re obviously obsessed with the gospel, their treatment of it is hardly reverent: “Jesus Christ With Signs Following” wonders if being “hell-bent on heaven bound” isn’t a tad bit soul sapping, while the murkier “Hallelujah Shine” advises Christians to “…meet the Buddha / And kill him on the road to glory.” Other songs feature more of the band’s famously obscure lyrics–“Waterbag” helpfully notes that “the son of a donkey / Is the son of a donkey,” and the grand finale, “High Highs & Low Lows,” ends a string of evocative surrealism with the lines “Hedonistic, fatalistic, bombastic, cataclysmic / Stick it, stick it in your ear / So long mother, I’m out of here.” The Gourds are a particularly excellent live act, too: not many bands have one singer as good as either Kevin Russell with his earthy twang or Jimmy Smith with his reedy yip–and with the contributions of former Chicagoan Max Johnston (ex-Freakwater, ex-Wilco) the group’s rich layers of mandolin, fiddle, banjo, accordion, and guitar fit better than ever into the songs’ strangely propulsive grooves. Wednesday, April 4, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Carrico.