Gourds Bolsa de Agua

As long-time favourites in Texas, the Gourds are probably best known for backing the late Doug Sahm in his final years and providing the perfect compliment with an eclectic mix of country, Cajun and traditional Mexican sounds. With the addition of former Uncle Tupelo multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston on last year's Ghosts Of Hallelujah, the band took a big step forward in terms of concentrating their diverse influences and Bolsa de Agua should once again appeal to fans of Anodyne-era UT or a stripped-back Los Lobos. Main songwriters Jimmy Smith and Kev Russell are refreshingly unpretentious, even though few songs are instantly memorable. Instead, one flows effortlessly after another; the overall effect being the simple joys shared by a bunch of guys playing music together in the same room. With its dedication to Sahm, it becomes clear that Bolsa de Agua is exactly the kind of album he liked to make. Too bad he didn't get to join in on the fun. (Sugar Hill)