Blood of the Ram – The Gourds
Eleven Thirty 7003
Ten years in, The Gourds – the band that covered Snoop D-O-Double-G's "Gin and Juice" only to have rumors on Napster as a Phish song – is the best alt.country rock band making music today, no matter what anyone would have you believe about the Drive By Truckers' manically depressed, whiskey-drunk tales. These Texas cats have a few albums under the ol' pie-plate belt buckle (Stadium Blitzer is my favorite) and this year’s Blood of the Ram deserves both reflection and a rowdy ovation.
"Lower 48" is accented by Claude Bernard's Cajun accordion and Kev Russel calls out all 48 book-ended states in turn (what'cha got on that hip-hop?). Bernard's organ on "TTT Gas" sounds like the Grateful Dead's Pigpen's did on a dosed night and "Illegal Oyster" has the dark carnival creep of a Tom Waits' composition (check for Jeff Johnston's saw playing). Max Johnston's mandolin trickles sunshine into the otherwise melancholy "On Time," which sounds the most like a Drive By Truckers' lament. "Do 4 U" is boogie-woogie true and would have been superb given a washboard and spoons.
I've played "Let Him In" a good many times more than the rest of the album. When it's over, I just want to hear the pleas again. Doors-like organ keeps the alcohol coming for the sobbing fiddle and the drunkard's tale is spilled. "Have you been a drinkin'?" Kev Russel asks, who replies, too: "Old Bacchus taught me well and yes I do remember. What the hell does that gots to do with anything? It's cold out in this hallway, would you kindly let me in?" Then, a full band harmony pleads "Let him in, let him in, let him in…" It's evident someone in, or close to, the band has been in this situation before, because the sarcastic anger in the responses of the freezing lush just trying to lay down under a roof and the pleading of "let him in" are too honest to have been entirely mused into existence.
The title track is another to hear again, and again, and – although it's about a monstrous ram which had "long shaggy hair, hangin' down to the ground," the music paints a desert-hardened cowboy bobbing along, because his jeans are so tight he has to waddle. "Turd in My Pocket" is soulful, funky and funny-as-poop, full of the blatant Southern honesty ("You can't shit me, I already got a turd in my pocket") that makes the Gourds so fun to hear.