In a baseball lineup, the manager often bats his best and most versatile hitter in the third spot—it’s the seat of power, average and speed. On The Gourds’ latest, the three-hole is occupied by a stunning piece of music, and one heretofore absent from their repertoire: an honest-to-god ballad.
It’s an odd centerpiece for a band built around a sweaty-nut sack, greasy-southern-redneck soul sound. But “Promenade” isn’t just a sweet song; it’s a revelation, and certainly worth both the showcase spot in the order and the retooled sonic lineup found on Noble Creatures.
And while it’s true that the album’s gorgeous pair of other ballads give “Promenade” a fitting context, it’s not like the Austin quintet has gone all soft and mushy. From the reverb-soaked, slide guitar- and harmonica-driven voodoo number “Spivey” to the zydeco stomp of “Cranky Mulatto” to the epic feel-good, wake-and-bake-anthem-in-the-making “Moon Gone Down” (opening line: “Me and the coke and cigarettes, looking at the crack of dawn/I got a house that’s full of lights, but I never turn them on”), Noble Creatures is pure Gourds from top to bottom. And as many here in the Garden City are fully aware, that means there isn’t an easy out in the bunch. (Nick Davis)
The Gourds play the Wilma Theatre Friday, April 25. $20 at the Kettlehouse.