For the past 15 years, The Gourds have been known for their legendary stamina. Live shows are events that attract loyal (and testosterone-heavy) audiences. The buzz around their latest is that it captures that live show energy. That's a pretty big promise. On stage, the five musicians are larger than life physically and especially musically because of their big voices and impressive instrument rotations.
There is a lot of energy here, especially the tunes by Kevin "Shinyribs" Russell, who adds the distinctive Third Coast spiciness to the band. But what "Haymaker!" captures most is the breadth of The Gourd's considerable talent. It's the most complete and even CD yet - and that's saying a lot because the band started to perfect their songwriting and pacing with "Blood of the Ram" in 2004, and the next two CDs that followed, "Heavy Ornamentals" and "Noble Creatures," brought them closer to an ideal sound.
All of the signature features of The Gourds are present here: catchy songwriting and singing split by Russell, Jimmy Smith and a couple of deft contributions by Max Johnston. It's all held together by the rollicking combinations of fiddle, mandolin, accordion and piano that are unique to the band. Haymaker may mean a knock-out punch, but this CD actually delivers a steady string of thumping hits.