Starting off to the sound of Kevin Russell’s Memphis soul, New Orleans style lead vocals, aided by accordion, mandolin and driving rhythm the album hits a major strike, immediately. So strong is the opening track ‘I Want It So Bad’, and that statement alone could be attributed to just how good they wanted this album to turn out. Formed in 1994 the Austin Texas combo relocated, temporarily for twelve days last spring to Levon Helm’s recording studio up in Woodstock, New York to record Old Man Joy. With contrasting styles within the unit, the listener is handed an album that is varied and heaped with passion and soul bearing work. Much is down to producer, musician Larry Campbell who plays electric, acoustic and lap steel and on one track, percussion gets the best out of the band.
Easing through as noted above a varied and appetising set of tunes the Max Jackson fronted ‘Haunted’ (shades of Jay Farrar?) stirs the inner soul like few others. Likewise, the Levon Helm-esque like ‘Peppermint City’ that asks for no quarter given or looks for any is a cracker. Cranked up a mite it is aided by a strong rhythmic beat, percussion, lead guitar, harmony vocals, piano and a general head turning swirling accompaniment that is strong enough to whisk you up and away on an unforgettable trip. Russell also provides the soulful, gospel-ish ‘Two Sparrows’ that hits the spot, perfectly.
Jimmy Smith is the other main lead vocalist and provider of the darker side. All though he does rock, 1970s Glam rock era style on ‘Drop The Charges’ likewise strikes it hard and true. This never better demonstrated than on the gritty note bending ‘Marginalised’ (I could imagine Sam Baker doing this one!); his measured, slightly strained tones ensure the music sticks. Like mud. His showtime ‘You Must Not Know’ has the feel of the carnival aid his effort. It works great too and has a feel akin to the late Doug Sahm! One of Russell’s efforts ‘Eyes of A Child’ opens slowly with a stripped back feel, prior to momentum gathering it is of great appeal. As organ, piano and the usual framework of sound including his own mandolin ease across one’s mind. Awesome! His vocals aided by harmony vocals and likewise, production during one passage give it a little of that classic 1970s Memphis soul sound. What a song! What an innovative inspired piece of work I just can’t help but play it again and again every time I reach it.
To close, it is left to Smith to edge towards rock as he powers through with ‘Your Benefit’ as a wonderful balance is obtained. Given the fact it follows ‘Eyes Of…’ it says much when I heap praise upon it. And, yes to answer your question as whether The Gourds have found another fan. Oh, what have I been missing out on?
Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
Add a Comment