Haymaker!

Haymaker!

Their country roots music is as welcoming as a pair of old slippers, but on closer inspection, you find the slippers are full of boiled squash. If that imagery is strange, it’s at least in keeping with the Gourds, who have spent the past fifteen years mining such weird juxtapositions. Not ones for the rodeo circuit, they don’t dwell on cheating hearts and seem to abhor jingoism and fake sentiment, yet their oblique tales still manage to be crowd-pleasers. Haymaker! (Yep Roc) is another in a long line of solid efforts from the Austin band, proving that the group’s established groove has yet to become a rut. Writers Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith each follow their own muse: Russell’s songs are plotted and hook-laden; Smith’s melodies and obtuse lyrics take unexpected detours. For a while, the five-man band was sounding dangerously schizophrenic, but not these days. Smith’s rocking “Luddite Juice” and slinky “New Dues” or Russell’s Dave Dudley tribute, “Tex-Mex Mile,” and his anthemic “All the Way to Jericho” find the group’s members playing to one another’s strengths like never before.

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