Blurt Magazine: Rest Of The World Will Catch Up Soon Enough

The Gourds / Old Mad Joy
(Vanguard Records)

By Lee Zimmerman

It seems somewhat surprising, but even at this point in their trajectory, with so many fine albums behind them, the Gourds remain relatively unknown. A sturdy roots rock combo, they have a lot of elements in their favor - a steady sense of song craft, an able instrumental arsenal and, perhaps most importantly, a willingness to persevere despite any real lack of appreciation. Old Mad Joy, an album which finds them switching labels yet again, brings encouragement that the lack of awareness may be tempered somewhat, given its resolute performances, and what will hopefully become a real record company commitment.

If there's any problem at all, it would seem to be that the Gourds have failed to establish an identity all their own. After all, this is a band that once raised eyebrows by covering both "Ziggy Stardust" and Snoop Dogg on the same EP. This isn't necessary a bad thing - indeed, as always, their ability to deliver a relentless rocker or wring out tears from a heartfelt ballad is beyond reproach. Still, with echoes of the Stones ("Drop What I'm Doing"), solo Keith Richards ("Melchert"), and the Band/Levon Helm ("Peppermint City") ringing through these songs, it's still hard to get a grasp on a genuine Gourds identity. The album's best ballads -- "Marginalized," "Eyes of a Child" and "Two Sparrows" - bring better focus, defining to a great extent a world-weary approach borne from a hard-bitten stance and soulful recompense. Ultimately, Old Mad Joy may not signal the breakthrough that this outfit deserves, but by rekindling the savvy sound techniques that have taken them this far, hopefully the rest of the world will catch up soon enough.

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