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The Gourds: Haymaker! 

One of the great joys of listening to the Gourds is noticing how simply and honestly the Austin, Texans deliver their music from a ground-level perspective – devoid of irony or sentiment. Loveable losers are never too loveable, characters never too quirky, or needs too dire. The whores, hitchhikers, metalheads and country gals who populate Haymaker!, the band's ninth studio release, come off unvarnished and real, set to a midtempo twang spiced with accordions, fiddles and piano that never gets ahead of itself. On "Tex-Mex Mile," Kevin Russell crows, "The ho's got their johns following single file/They ain't good-lookin' but they got that freaky style," to an off-handed, honky-tonk beat underscored by Russell's flowing accordion. The band's sense of place is betrayed by song titles such as "Country Love" and "Country Gal," where a wide-angle view of stars, constellations and a fresh breeze can create a kind of sensual magic. And that's the simple truth. 3 stars.

The Gourds CD release party is at Smith's Olde Bar on Sat., Jan. 24, 8 p.m. $15.

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