Old Mad Joy (Vanguard)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Sept. 23, 2011
The GourdsOld Mad Joy (Vanguard)
Of the dozen tracks on the Gourds' 10th studio LP, Kevin Russell wrote five, Jimmy Smith hallucinated six, and ace detailer Max Johnston snuck in "Haunted," an Athens, Ga.-style bar bruiser powered by Old Mad Joy producer Larry Campbell's steel-rail string bending. Smith's absurdist rockers, "Drop the Charges" ("Suzi Quatro flankin' tres well, that's who's down in my palais") and Stones/Faces nutter "Drop What I'm Doing," bring the Mad to OMJ. In "Melchert," he maps the song equivalent to no less than Richard Linklater's Slacker, and any Caleb Followill fans left could jump ship to "Marginalized." Serious Joy jigs in Russell's Cajun-fried pub wisdom ("I Want It So Bad") and magnolia ballad "Two Sparrows," a gorgeous into-the-mystic moment. "Ink and Grief" never takes for granted his hammock hook, while rejoinder "Peppermint City" births a chorus suitable for the Stax catalog. That goes double for mandolin-gilded march "Eyes of a Child," only inverted into stone soul gospel. Multi-instrumentalist-turned-steward Campbell puts hospital corners on sound and songs, every instrument heard perfectly in the larger mosaic – Johnston's mandolin here, violin there. Sequenced hopscotch-style between the two principle composers, Old Mad Joy barely drops a beat ("You Must Not Know"). Old hands.