Haymaker! – The Gourds
The Gourds' Haymaker! delivers the wallop its title promises because on some level, it's entirely apparent that the Austin, Texas band are doing this for themselves. How else can you explain songs about a guy named Thurman and lyrics that ponder how the "Back of my head smells like a kick drum"? Yes, the inevitable comparisons to The Band are warranted, but in sonic likeness alone. The intentions of The Gourds are drastically different, blatantly fun, with no pretense or grandiose gestures.
They're just five dudes playing some tunes. Ironically, that's what makes their music resonate.
The band's good ol' boy bravado inevitably conjures scenes of travels along those rambling country roads hallowed by Americana's proponents. Apropos opener "Country Love," bellows "Wake up!" in anticipation of such a sojourn, rife with the earthy tones and gritty textures of rurality. Twangy guitar on "New Dues" harkens to a time when Telecasters were the standard, and furthers the rustic atmosphere by providing an essential country tone alongside the fiddle. By far, however, the anthemic "All the Way to Jericho," stands as the album's greatest song, a plaintive, country narrative tailormade for any roadside bar across the U.S. of A.
Esoteric lyrics defy easy labeling, but one thing seems sure, they're pretty damn funny. They're a bit of New Riders of the Purple Sage, a touch of Drive-By Truckers, but mostly they're pure Gourds. Lines like "The women were snoring/ with that wart hog rage/ Wake up pig/ Roll over Beethoven" from "Blanket Show" took up a temporary residence in my frontal brain lobe for 24 hours. I was rather sad to see it move on, knowing there would be little like it beyond the bounds of Haymaker! "Valentine," a heartfelt reflection on love, assures listeners that songs about fossils and flatulence are by choice, and not lack of depth.
Main writers Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith have more deliberate intent in crafting a unified album then in past projects. No song seems oddly placed, or in precarious existence alongside one another. Only "Luddite" has a surprising city-slicker feel relative to its country kin. Considering the diverse offerings of the album, the song remains well-suited in its context. Collectively, the tunes stand as some of the best work in the band's extensive catalog. Simply, you'll have fun listening to Haymaker!, because they had fun making it.