Gourds – Old Mad Joy

January 01, 1970

(Vanguard)

 

www.vanguardrecords.com

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.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Marginalized,” “Two Sparrows,” “Eyes of a Child” LEE ZIMMERMAN

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