The Birdhouse Gourds, three unglamorous middle-aged guys from Lorain County, play straight-on, unadorned, 1980s-style rock. All 11 songs on Crayon Banjo, the Gourds' first full-length CD, are original, mostly the work of lead singer/guitarist Jerry Popiel. R.E.M., in fact, is the Gourds' strongest influence: Opening cut "That Girl" could have been an outtake from Murmur or Reckoning; Barenaked Ladies, Gin Blossoms, and all other guitar-driven modern-rock acts creep into their sound as well. Sad is the day when rock music like this, so heavy on melody, with well-intentioned raggedness, is labeled alternative.
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