Twangville: Things Aren't Always What They Seem

Editor's note: The following review was taken from a playlist of 10 recent recordings. Click here to read the rest of that article.

The Gourds / Old Mad Joy
By Mayer Danzig
Sept 28, 2011

The Gourds latest is a bit deceiving. The band has built a reputation as a bluegrass and backporch country band, but things aren’t always what they seem.

The album open as one would expect. “I Want You So Bad” is built around an accordion and a bouncing beat. “We all know that life ain’t fair,” the band sings, “but we forget it when desire becomes despair,” with the latter line sung in rich multi-part harmony.

But then things start to change. The guitars emerge and the traditional sound fades into the background. “Haunted,” the fifth track on the album, opens up into what could easily become an extended jam. Electric guitars, particularly a steel guitar, glisten as they wander around a classic southern rock riff. A steel guitar and a Southern drawl stand mostly alone as the connections to the band’s roots base.

“Ink and Grief” is a gem, a ballad both tender and bittersweet. Steel guitar and fiddle intertwine beautifully as Kevin Russell plaintively counsels, “when love is gone, carry on.”

“Your Benefit,” the closing track, reaches a pinnacle of the jam-band sound. The song has an angular chorus that is complimented by some great harmonies. The song has, dare I say it, a Grateful Dead feel. Given Jerry Garcia’s penchant for bluegrass, I suspect that the Gourds – and certainly this release – would have had his seal of approval.

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