There are other good bands out of Austin, but is anyone wittier and wilder than The Gourds? (Their website, www.thegourds.com, touts them as "music for the unwashed and well-read.") At their best, their musicianship is superb, their lyrics playful and wacky and intriguing, in, say, a John Prine sense, and their chemistry rocks.
Longtime fans, however, will find this latest CD a mixed bag. Horns jam with the band on the opening cut, an organ thickens many of the other tunes, the musicianship is tight, and the vocals are better than ever. For those unfamiliar with their inspired, heartfelt gumbo of honky tonk, rock, jug band, and bluegrass, "Noble Creatures" is probably not an ideal introduction to The Gourds. (Start with the classic "Bolsa de Agua" or the astounding "Cow Fish Fowl or Pig"). The sum of the parts here may be too polished. The Gourds are more fun and approachable when they get passionate and sweaty.