Austin, Texas band the Gourds are the quintessential Lone Star ensemble, the type of group tailor-made for Gruene Hall and every outdoor festival from Fredericksburg to Nacogdoches. Their seventh proper album, Heavy Ornamentals, may be their most dance-hall friendly yet, a hip-shaking mix of funky backwoods stompers and country tear-jerkers filled with the same surreal hillbilly lyricism that's helped them stand out from their contemporaries for nearly a decade. Bassist Jimmy Smith and guitarist/mandolinist Kevin Russell split songwriting duties, although the occasional songwriting and vocal contributions of multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston (who spent his formative years here in Big D) are sorely missed this time around. Smith's "Weather Woman" conjures the soulful thump of Crazy Horse as he lets loose witty lines about the plight of his favorite meteorologist ("Do you think it rains when my weather girl cries?/I shit you not it was softball size"), but it's Russell who steals the show this time out, belting out "Burn the Honeysuckle" like a redneck Otis Redding and tastefully reining in his East Texas howl for the straight country shuffle "Pill Bug Blues" and the beautiful, elegiac "Our Patriarch"--a timeless funeral ballad fit for both hymnals and mix tapes.
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