Noble Creatures

Well into their second decade with only the slightest of personnel changes, the Gourds are already beyond the life span of the average band. Their earthy eclecticism has produced an extensive list of classics, and if their albums haven’t always been long on consistency, (Yep Roc) has the feel of rallying the troops. The yin-yang of primary writers Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith hasn’t always been congruous; Russell’s songs soar effortlessly while Smith’s, if equally rewarding, are knottier and difficult to decipher. But it’s the combination that makes them so special, and on Creatures the Gourds sound more like a band than they have in years. Not the usual knocked-out hullabaloo, this album seems more fussed over—and that’s hardly a bad thing. Russell’s “Promenade” is his best ballad since 1996’s “Web Before You Walk Into It”; Smith’s “A Few Extra Kilos” finds a powerful Dylan/Band groove. On they go, each playing off the other: “Cranky Mulatto,” “Kicks in the Sun,” and so forth. If for some reason you still need proof that this Austin band is a rootsy, esoteric treasure, dig in right here.

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