If there’s an upside to the presidency of George W. Bush (and that’s a big if), it may be the fact that many musicians are waking from their slumber and trying to produce critical, topical music, and there is much evidence to suggest the new album by this Austin, Texas combo was inspired in part by their most famous former neighbor. The title substitutes an animal known for its head-butting for the “lamb” of the famous gospel hymn, and things proceed from there. “Lower 48,” a rollicking, minor-key accordion boogie that sounds like the soundtrack to a road trip through America’s seedy underbelly, kicks off the album by namechecking each state, starting with “Florida shakes in the mystery of numbers.” And who else could be the subject of this couplet from “Escalade”: “Even as society collapses/You got rose colored glasses”? Other he-men, overzealous cops, and generally abusive types populate the rest of the songs, but there’s enough levity and musical proficiency here to keep things from getting too heavy. Anyone who has ever heard the Gourds’ cover of Snoop’s “Gin and Juice” knows the band prizes its playful, omnivorous eclecticism, and they mix it up again on Blood of the Ram, even while hewing close to the porch-band stomp for which they’re known. Sometimes they get a little too wound up, like a cat you’ve petted too much, and references to “titties on witches” and “Turd in My Pocket” are wince-inducing; chalk it up to, er, “local color.” Still, the Gourds embody the best of ramshackle Austin, refusing to sit still and be pinned down. Maybe they’ll play the president’s “welcome home” party in 2009.
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