Album Reviews: Heavy Ornamentals by The GourdsBeyond their loyal fanbase, The Gourds are best known -- if they're known at all -- for their hokey bluegrass cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" that once spread like faux-hillbilly wildfire among Napster users. Their lone foray into hip-hop was obvious and affected and unfunny, but it was, after all, just a silly cover. Unfortunately, a lot of their original material exhibits the same flaws.
At its core, Heavy Ornamentals is an earthy, feel-good album that combines elements of bluegrass and country rock. The Gourds are tight musicians and their chemistry together is palpable; these facts alone translate to some easy-to-like tracks, such as the straight-ahead rocker (and album opener) "Declineometer" and the Roger Miller-like silliness of "Hooky Junk."
Too often, though, The Gourds leave absolutely no aftertaste. Heavy Ornamentals is the sort of fare -- enthusiastic and well-played, melodic and crowd-pleasing (and crowd-pandering) -- that can be heard most any night in most any bar in Nashville. Their humor, supposedly a calling card, doesn't even muster the sophistication of Barenaked Ladies (check out the wacky lesbian in "New Roommate"!). Worse, they sometimes sound like a straight-up tribute band; "Weather Woman," for instance, is built on an unabashed rip from the Neil Young catalog.
As long as the listener doesn't expect lingering effects, though, there is some fun to be had with Heavy Ornamentals. Tracks like "Shake The Chandelier" satisfyingly capture the energy one would expect from a Gourds live show, as the band amplifies the Texas twang to a level designed to beat the noise of a honky-tonk bar into submission. -- Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert
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