The Gourds

Mistakenly thought of as a novelty act after their infamous psycho-bluegrass makeover of Snoop Dogg's classic "Gin and Juice," the Gourds have nonetheless released a series of compelling, whacked-out alternative country efforts for 10 years. Blood of the Ram continues in the same tradition, with top-notch playing, rough-hewed singing and openly bizarre songwriting. Humorous and obscure, images and references collide with non sequiturs to create a dead-on view of rural life. What makes this new effort different is a more organic, looser presentation. In the vein of Dylan's Basement Tapes (but better recorded), the Gourds have created a beautiful, sturdy mess. Tracks like "Lower 48" and "Triple T Gas" show a band totally at ease with their weird world of swampy rock and backwoods folk. Eccentricity and talent are rarely as cleverly matched as with the Gourds. Long may they confuse.