Giant Giant Sand – Tucson
There are those for whom Howe Gelb, the brains behind Giant Giant Sand, can do no wrong. This is his 50th album or thereabouts. This one spreads itself across 19 tracks and over an hour and ten minutes of music time. As ever with a Howe Gelb album, and this is his 150th or thereabouts, there are some great moments. ‘Wind Blown Waltz’ begins the album nicely. ‘Love Comes Over You’ is as lovely as it sounds. This album, and it’s Howe Gelb’s 250th or thereabouts, is a self-styled country-rock opera that tells the story of a ‘semi-grizzled’ musician who embarks on a road trip. However, there the narrative thread pretty much ends. More a plot device than a coherent theme, the story provides Gelb with the pretext to visit a range of places and incorporate a variety of musical styles. The best moments are when he sounds like the long-lost country-rock cousin of David Berman of The Silver Jews. The second track ‘Forever And A Day’ is a good example. The worst are when he comes across as the bastard son of Jose Feliciano. Even with Lonna Kelly on vocals, the latin-tinged, lounge songs sound just as cheesy as they’re probably meant to. While the protagonist wanders far, never does he come across the aphorism that less is more. The same point applies to Howe Gelb too. But on this, his 350th album or thereabouts, what’s remarkable is that his sound his still developing. Sure, this is recognizably a Howard Gelb album, but it’s not the same as what went before. And that’s remarkable. There’s probably a sequel to this album already in the pipeline. If so, it goes without saying that Howe Gelb’s 351st album is likely to be equally rewarding.