Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: Vanguard
Genre(s): Country, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Country-Rock, Country-Rock
The Gourds' tenth studio album finds the Austin-based roots rockers not only changing labels, but relinquishing production duties and recording outside of their native Texas. Released on Vanguard, produced by Larry Campbell, and recorded at The Barn, Levon Helm's timber-framed studio in upstate New York, Old Mad Joy dials up the electrical current, resulting in one of the group’s most idiosyncratic releases to date. The Gourds admiration for the Band has never been a secret, and it’s great to hear them stretch their Big Pink-informed muscles on tracks like “Drop What I’m Doing” and “Ink and Grief.
To some extent, we know what we’re going to get out of the Gourds: a rootsy sound that blends multiple influences from rock to county to R&B, often coupled with a wry wink and lyrics that veer into Beckian stream-of-consciousness. It’s fun, and their shows are a party, even if it can make their studio albums a bit of a mixed bag. Overall, it just works, and it seems to work better with each release.
Of the dozen tracks on the Gourds' 10th studio LP, Kevin Russell wrote five, Jimmy Smith hallucinated six, and ace detailer Max Johnston snuck in "Haunted," an Athens, Ga.-style bar bruiser powered by Old Mad Joy producer Larry Campbell's steel-rail string bending. Smith's absurdist rockers, "Drop the Charges" ("Suzi Quatro flankin' tres well, that's who's down in my palais") and Stones/Faces nutter "Drop What I'm Doing," bring the Mad to OMJ. In "Melchert," he maps the song equivalent to no less than Richard Linklater's Slacker, and any Caleb Followill fans left could jump ship to "Marginalized." Serious Joy jigs in Russell's Cajun-fried pub wisdom ("I Want It So Bad") and magnolia ballad "Two Sparrows," a gorgeous into-the-mystic moment.