Whatever you want to call their style, Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell and Jimmy Smith and company have been honing it since 1996 through a relentless tour schedule and 10 studio albums, none of which you’re likely to have heard. “Old Mad Joy” deserves to be the first one that you do.

I’ve always considered the label “alt country” to mean modern country music that’s, well, good. (No offense to Toby Keith and all those other country artists who aren’t “alt.”)


That said, I’m not sure if it’s fair to label The Gourds anything-country, despite their Texas roots — on “Old Mad Joy” (Vanguard Records), there’s just as much New Orleans stomp, roots rock and southern boogie to their sound as there is country twang. And here’s the important part: The styles merge perfectly, and they do one just as well as the next. They’re the whole package.


On wild shouters like “Drop The Charges,” the band even manages a convincingly down-home punky vibe — it’s like John Mellencamp meets The Clash. Throw in some Stones shuffle on songs like the guitar-driven “Drop What I’m Doing” and bluesy Fabulous Thunderbirds-style rumble on “Peppermint City,” and you’ve got a perfect amalgam of influences for an album more compelling, raucous and just downright fun than almost anything you’ll find on the radio — country or otherwise.


Whatever you want to call their style, Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell and Jimmy Smith and company have been honing it since 1996 through a relentless tour schedule and 10 studio albums, none of which you’re likely to have heard. “Old Mad Joy” deserves to be the first one that you do.