There's a band out of Austin, Texas called The Gourds. I've loved them for years, but I always find myself somewhat tongue-tied (or keyboard-tied) when I try to describe them and their music. A couple of them have skanky ZZ Top beards, beerguts, and look like they should be driving big rigs. They have an accordion player named Claude. They have two lead singers who do very passable imitations of Levon Helm and Rick Danko from The Band -- merely two of the best rock vocalists ever. They play a sort of swamp rock/boogie/Cajun/country conglomeration that doesn't fit easily within any of those niches. And the songs? They sing about flatulence, Star Trek, weather girls, Schoolhouse Rock, and Catwoman. All of which would lead you to believe that they're a sort of weirdly adolescent, pop-culture-obsessed novelty act, which they are, but then they turn around and knock you out with a perfect unrequited love song that sounds so real and honest and desperate that you'd swear the lyrics were written in blood.
They have a new album called Haymaker!, which will be out right after the beginning of the year. It's probably their best album in a long career of good and very good albums. It's raw and soulful. There's a little more of a Cajun influence and a lot more classic Levon Helm hillbilly wail this time around. There are songs about do rags. There are songs about otherwise unknown people named Thurman. There are songs about fossils. And there are great love and unrequited love songs. They do what they've always done, only better. Right now it's at the top of my Best Albums of 2009 list. Yeah, I know. But I'll still bet that it won't move off the list.