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Old Mad Joy CD

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

2011 album from the Texas Roots rockers. Produced by Larry Campbell at the infamous Levon Helm Studios a.k.a. 'The Barn', Old Mad Joy embraces the eccentric character and sonic range of the band while pushing their sound to the next level. Based in Austin, TX and formed in 1994, The Gourds have released ten studio records and multiple live recordings and soundtracks. In 2006, they performed in an episode of the NBC show Friday Night Lights and have been featured on PBS' Austin City Limits. The Gourds high-energy live shows and endless touring have earned them the reputation as a 'must see' artist.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 13, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Vanguard
  • ASIN: B005DTERJ8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,931 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

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Everyone knows that you have to live with a Gourds record for weeks or months or years before its true greatness reveals itself. So these are just some first impressions of "Old Mad Joy." This record finds the Gourds emphasizing electric guitars and full instrumental arrangements over the simplicity of tinkling mandolins and raw acoustic guitars that dominate some of their (especially earlier) records. The band also seems to give extra attention to the vocals on this one, with several songs exploring multi-part arrangements and overlapping melodies. Having said all of that, everything you love about the Gourds is here: Kev Russell's quirky country ballads? Check. Jimmy Smith's chugging Stones-esque rockers? Check. The diamond-in-the-rough songwriting offering from Max Johnston? Check. In short, this is a good ol' Gourds record. Get it. I think it will wear well.
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I don't think anyone who has been listening to the Gourds the last 15 years or so expects big surprises from this Austin-based outfit--- at least as far as the music goes. The musical stew that the Gourds cook up, sampling from all across the spectrum of genres, is oddly distinct without really belonging to any one genre. I know the band gets pigeon-holed as alt-county or punk folk, but what matters are the songs, songs of celebration, jubilation, trepidation, motivation, and gyration.

Any fan knows the Gourds, there is bit of a dichotomy at work, and most of their songs are immediately recognizable as either by Jimmy Smith or Kevin Russell. (Those rare ones that leave you guessing are likely the too infrequent tunes penned by Max Johnson.) The surreal, indecipherable rockers of Jimmy Smith would crash a Flesch Reading Ease program, but they are still wicked fun. Kevin Russell has tapped into a more spiritual, more reflective vein of late, penning some of the sweetest sad songs out there (but he still has the mojo when he wants, e.g. Peppermint City).

What sounds different here is, well, the sound. There is a bit more polish, refinement, freshness, and focus on "Old Mad Joy." One would expect no less given the body of work from producer Larry Campbell and engineered by Justin Guip, who are the wizards behind at Levon Helm Studios. Apparently Mr. Campbell prodded the band to dig deep and work their collective butts off. Jimmy Smith has also commented how the quality vintage recording gear tamed much of the harshness found in some studio output. And, Larry Campbell is no slouch on the guitars, and he adds depth and resonance adding electric and slide guitar to the songs.

It's always good to have another Gourds album, even if there is something I cannot quite pinpoint that keeps this one from being at the top of the list. I think more songs from Max Johnson and maybe a touch more twang. Or maybe I just think too much.
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This is an interesting addition to the Gourds' discography. On first listen I didn't think it was quite "Gourdian" enough. Too polished maybe? A little restrained? Then it sucked me in and soon I found myself wandering around singing along - the tunes that had quietly insinuated themselves into my brain. And the Gourdishness was still there, just with a slightly different take. A little darker in tone for one thing, less playful. For newcomers Gourdishness is a joyous, anarchic blend of roots/rock/country/cajun/bluegrass that doesn't sound like anyone else and is filled with obtuse, quirky lyrics, odd, beautiful images, and colorful and often hilarious snippets from the lives of endless oddball characters. Oh and of course catchy and moving melodies, varied rhythms and instrumentation and always crack musicianship. Anyway, love that the Gourds are still doing their thing, still experimenting, and still twice as interesting as anyone else.
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I was a little hesitant on my first couple of listens, then I saw them live and they played better than half of the songs from Old Mad Joy. And right off the bat I knew this was way better than "Haymaker". Jimmy's songs (Drop the Charges, Drop What I'm Doing) rock HARD; Two Sparrows is perhaps the prettiest song I've ever heard. Haunted is a really great contribution from Max. It is different. I could use more mandolin, accordian etc. And I think this is the first Gourds release with only twelve songs. But give it a chance and it will grow on you.
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The Gourds are one of my favorite bands and this is a good album. It's not classic like Beeble and Cow Fish ... it's more like their more recent albums. I had hopes that some of Levon Helm Studios' magic would inspire some new sounds, but that doesn't seem to be the case. In short, it's average for a Gourds album, which makes it better than almost everything else out there. I recommend any long-time Gourds fan pick it up, and any new Gourds fan get the early albums first.
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Man, this album is just outstanding. The Gourds continue to be about my favorite band in the world!

So, the question-- what you really want to know: Is it a Kevin album or a Jimmy album? It's close as always, but I have to give the edge to Kevin on this one. But here's the weird thing: This is the first time I've given one the edge on a Gourds record for beautiful SLOW songs. And holy cats, are there some amazing slow songs!!! In a weird way, Old Mad Joy is like an inverse of Noble Creatures. You listen to Noble Creatures and you hear "How will you shine?" first, and you think, man, nothing can beat that; this is gonna be a Kevin album hands-down! But then the Jimmy tracks kind of sneak up on you over the course of the rest of the record, so you're like, wow, maybe "HWYS?" is the best song. . .but it's a JIMMY record. Same deal here. Jimmy has the amazing song called "Drop the Charges" which is almost as good as "Fossil Contender", and you're like, oh crap, he's won, can't beat that. But then you keep listening and you're like, oh wow, maybe there's still some time left on the clock... And Shinyribs comes from behind with these insane gospel-infused ballads and groovy swing numbers that are so good they make you cry.

Anyhow, buy this record or you are ten kinds of insane.
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