When I first learned that Austin’s Gourds were covering the Snoop Doggy Dogg hit “Gin and Juice,” I felt a little sick that this truly twisted roots band would resort to Weird Al-style novelty tricks. In fact, on last year’s EP Gogitchyershinebox (Watermelon), they made a great song out of it, a skittering, mandolin-driven, egotistic folk-rock rant a la Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” with a swagger that suited singer K.P. Russell’s Texas twang as well as it did Snoop’s drawl–even when he warbled, incredibly, “My homie Dr. Dre / He came by with a gang of Tanqueray / And a fat-ass J of some bubonic chronic / You know it make me choke, it ain’t no joke.” Still, it’s a relief that the band’s brand-new third album, Ghosts of Hallelujah (Munich), bears no traces of kitsch. Now a quintet, with former Freakwater and Wilco multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston, the Gourds have really hit their stride. Between Russell’s hooky tunes and bassist Jimmy Smith’s cosmic meditations they cover a lot of stylistic turf, and now they have more chops than ever to get their indecipherable messages across. Even with the lyrics spread out in front of me I’ve no idea what they’re shouting about half the time–the album opens with the couplet “Up on high where the wild foam vanilla baths flow / You know who chose the bones over the entrails.” But with accordion, fiddle, banjo, Dobro, guitar, and organ shifting constantly over Smith’s loping bass lines and the simple, propulsive drumming of another recent recruit, Keith Langford, they almost make sense. Former True Believers guitarist Jon Dee Graham opens in support of his new solo album, Summerland (New West), a pleasing mix of hardscrabble roots rock and his strangely soulful, gravelly singing. Saturday, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Barry Anderson.