Last year, Americana-rock staple The Gourds announced an indefinite hiatus, leaving legions of fans crying into each others’ beer mugs and wallowing in lament. Who the hell is going to headline River City Roots Fest this year?! Thankfully, those Gourds are an industrious bunch of fellas who wasted no time cranking out some tasty side projects. Budget Cuts, the first release from guitarist-frontman Jimmy Smith and multi-instrumentalist Claude Bernard’s new group, The Hard Pans, fills the gap nicely, with memorable hooks, gritty guitar licks and bar-beaten stories to spare.
These guys are champions of smart but simple songs. The first track, “Ain’t Gonna Have It,” is a perfect example, starting with the repeating line, “If I have what I have tomorrow, then I ain’t gonna have none tonight.” Not exactly master’s thesis material, but it sure is fun to sing. The lyrics get denser elsewhere on the album but the attitude stays the same, delivered with angular guitar tones, a steady backbeat and kiss-my-ass drawl. Budget Cuts was released through Missoula’s High Plains Films, the company that made the recent Gourds documentary All the Labor. The album will offer a sigh of relief for any Gourdians feeling neglected, and is a tremendous stand-alone offering for any fans of low-key, busted-knuckle garage rock with a southern twang.