BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Giant Sand: Blurry Blue Mountain (Fire/Southbound)

 |   |  1 min read

Giant Sand: Better Man Than Me
BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Giant Sand: Blurry Blue Mountain (Fire/Southbound)

The next few months sees the re-presentation of the Giant Sand back-catalogue, the Tucson-based band helmed by singer-songwriter Howe Gelb for these past 25 years which has had among its ranks the core of Calexico (John Convertino and Joey Burns) and a guest list which has included M. Ward, the late Vic Chestnutt and Rainer Placek, Steve Wynn of Dream Syndicate, Neko Case and many other luminaries.

By my count coming down the highway at you will be 13 Giant Sand albums and eight albums under Gelb's own name. That's a lot of music from someone most have either never heard of, or are only vaguely familiar with.

And sadly/pleasingly there is no shorthand on Gelb: at times he brings to mind an alt.Willie Nelson, at others a more country-driven version of the Meat Puppets' desert-psychedelics, then he can be a soulful balladeer (with odd lyrics), a touch of Nick Cave, and on this typically diverse album he closes with a piano ballad Love a Loser, a duet with Lonna Kelly which has suggestions of an Irish song sung in a Western bar as Wyatt Earp and Clint Eastwood relax over a bottle of Red Eye.

The first half here are low, country-flavoured moods -- although he kicks in with the lightly folk-rocking Fields of Green ("They've been killing off my heroes since I was 17" which becomes "I've been killing off your heroes since you were 17").

101207_HoweGelbAirstreamBut he reconfigures country cliches (old chunk of coal, you don't miss your water etc) into something original, and offers understated delights like The Last One ("kiss your girl like it's the last time, feel the room swirl like it's your last ride") which could almost be a lounge ballad.

The tempo increases slowly (he's a smart cookie) and gets darker around the twanging Ride the Rail which refers to Johnny Cash guitar rhythms, and Lucky Star Love is country with an Elvis/Sun Studio echo and jazzy piano, Thin Line man is brittle Cave-like blues-rock . . .

Time Flies a lovely two and a half minute miniature and is the kind of country-jazz ballad you could imagine Chet Baker singing, or Bob Dylan picking up for a new album.

Howe Gelb is a rare talent and this album might just be a useful intro (for its diversity and scattering of great songs about people, places, pills and powder, bad and good love) before the whole slew of re-releases hits.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Ry Cooder: Soundtracks (Warners)

Ry Cooder: Soundtracks (Warners)

A couple of years ago when Ry Cooder was coming to New Zealand with the charming Nick Lowe, Elsewhere did an interview with him. It didn't go well. Actually, that's... > Read more

Lotus Mason: Lotus Mason (Glowb)

Lotus Mason: Lotus Mason (Glowb)

London-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Blair Jollands (interviewed in 2004 here) is one of New Zealand's best-kept expat secrets. With his band El Hula he crafted some of the... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Neil Finn and Jim Carter: Blue Smoke (2015)

Neil Finn and Jim Carter: Blue Smoke (2015)

When the recording of Blue Smoke by the Ruru Karaitiana Quintette was released in February 1949, the Second World War had only been over for around three and half years. The memories of loved... > Read more

JORDAN REYNE INTERVIEWED (2009): Tales from the dark side

JORDAN REYNE INTERVIEWED (2009): Tales from the dark side

Jordan Reyne is one of New Zealand’s most challenging and innovative songwriters. Whether it be on albums under her own name or as Dr Kervorkian and the Suicide Machine, Reyne has pushed... > Read more