The Gourds Reviewed
Cow Fish Fowl or Pig (Sugar Hill)
Reviewed by Christopher Hess, Fri., Sept. 13, 2002
The GourdsCow Fish Fowl or Pig (Sugar Hill)
Having become a prolific recording outfit with a couple of solo side projects to boot, the Gourds have elevated themselves far above the status of good local band and well-oiled live machine. With each new album, they only get better. Their latest, the oddly named Cow Fish Fowl or Pig, is a 17-song opus that sees these Austin boys at the height of their musical skills; four of the five play multiple instruments, and each of them has far surpassed mere competency. Even so, the songwriting is the strength of this album, and all parties have fully realized their own peculiar voice. Where Kevin Russell's songs are eccentric rural poetry set to funky-ass Gulf Coast country swing, Jimmy Smith's songs take on the dire and the ridiculous with equal zeal, sliding from ripping ballads to Tex-Mex stomps. Max Johnston tosses three of his own tunes into the pot this time, and though we had a glimpse of his compositions on the band's Sugar Hill debut, 2000's Bolsa de Agua, here he's come into his own, channeling traditional Southern and Appalachian sounds through his keen phrasing and warbly tenor. There is far too much happening on Cow Fish Fowl or Pig to address songs individually; suffice it to say that the Gourds are a band in the most profound sense of the word. They share an unfathomable spiritual attachment to the music they make -- how else to explain its practical perfection? Its direct and equal connection to the listener's soul, heart, bowels, and brain? Here's to a long and productive career for the best band in Austin. Easy.