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Weird Ways

The Gourds have taken almost as much critical lip for their unsparingly eccentric ways as they've been praised for their timeless appreciation of the basics. Fall behind on either count, it seems, and they wouldn't be doing their job. Formed in 1994 out of the remains of the punk-skewed Picket Line Coyotes, the Austin foursome has never had to work especially hard at polarizing listener opinion. They've been called many things: a spirited model of alt-country authenticity, a primitive knockoff of the Band, an unplugged Ass Ponys with an Appalachia fetish. Mainly, though, folks around here see them as just plain weird -- an ungainly confluence of disparate rural influences and sloppy enthusiasm.

As it happens, all of the above are pretty much on target. The Gourds have little use for the guidelines to which "proper" Texas music is expected to adhere -- be they factual or fictional. Alternately rowdy and poignant, a typical Gourds show could just as easily involve a cover of Snoop Doggy Dogg's "Gin and Juice" as it might a rendition of the Sir Douglas Quintet's "Nuevo Laredo" and/or a run-through of an old Carter Family classic. On stage and in the studio, the band's largely acoustic instrumentation (mandolin, guitar, accordion, bass, various percussion instruments) is paired with the singing of guitarist/mandolinist Kevin Russell and bassist Jimmy Smith, whose voices combine for harmonies that are doubly sweet for their gnarled imperfections. On the whole, the Gourds are after a loose, slightly twisted jamboree feel -- literate redneck party music for the well-read and unwashed.

To that effect, the Gourds are more village idiots than troubadours to be trusted, spouting off in odd directions with little regard for stylistic discretion. On their latest full-length release, the largely excellent Stadium Blitzer, and on the studio portion of the half-live Gogitchyershinebox EP (due out Tuesday), that common-sense-be-damned approach rarely defies emotional logic -- or willingly degenerates into pointless indulgence. Get 'em in front of a rowdy crowd , though, and all bets are off.

-- Hobart Rowland

The Gourds perform Thursday, September 3, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5. For info, call 869-COOL.

Jason and the Scorchers -- Hey, kids, you ought to know by now that alt-country wasn't born yesterday. In fact, one can trace its origins back to 1981, when a renegade band then known as Jason and the Nashville Scorchers launched its assault on Music Row's hegemony over American heartland music. The Scorchers were nearly destroyed by the ensuing warfare (combined with their own internal excesses and conflicting energies), but somehow they re-emerged in the '90s stronger than ever. And seeing as they continue to be one of America's most lethal live units, the name Scorchers remains an apt description. On Friday, September 4, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Doors 8 p.m. Tickets $8. Bobby Bare Jr. opens. 869-COOL. (Rob Patterson)

Clone Tour Gamma -- Introducing a gimmick that works: Alabama space/surf quartet Man or Astro-man has recently deployed several pockets of friends and associates out into the field, all performing under the guise of Clones of Man or Astro-man. They cover MOAM songs, they wear the space suits, and they incorporate the MOAM light and film show. It's basically the same show, only the musicians are officially licensed copycats. The particular foursome coming to Houston has been dubbed Clone Tour Gamma, the third such clone group and the first all-female lineup. Be very afraid. On Wednesday, September 9, at Mary Jane's, 4216 Washington Avenue. Showtime 9 p.m. Tickets $7. 869-5263. (David Simutis)

Ice-T -- It's been about a year since America last heard Ice-T spout his pointed gangsta-rap rhetoric on album. That's because he's spent most of his time in other media, making various TV appearances and lending his sinister likeness to straight-to-video action flicks like Mean Guns and Crazy Six. (He's even said to have started his own web site, devoted to naked, big-breasted, big-bootied freaks, but damned if I can find it.) Now, finally, Ice-T is back where he belongs, working coast-to-coast audiences with that politicized hoodoo-voodoo thang he do so well. Plain truth is, nothing beats seeing him on stage going ballistic, mike in jewelry-covered hand. And live, there are no second takes. On Wednesday, September 9, at the Abyss, 5913 Washington Avenue. Doors 8 p.m. Tickets $15. Ragtag opens. 863-7173. (Craig D. Lindsey)

 
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