Release Date: Nov 23, 2010
Record label: Fire
Genre(s): Country, Americana, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Country-Rock
It’s hard to believe that 25 years have passed since the release of Valley of Rain, the first Giant Sand album. And it’s nearly as long since the late ‘80s follow-ups (Ballad of a Thin Line Man, Storm, and The Love Songs) that helped to form a template for what the alt. country scene of the ‘90s and ‘00s could be. Much as Howe Gelb has been keen to unburden himself of any such “godfather” role, there is no denying that the cross-pollination of country styles with punk, psychedelic rock, jazz, sunbaked acid blues, and more that “defined” alt.
Howe Gelb has a remarkable ability to sound like a master of his craft at the same time that he resembles a backporch picker who is paying as much attention to his iced tea as his music; Gelb can seem focused and casual at once, and he shows off this talent to its best advantage of Giant Sand's 2010 album Blurry Blue Mountain. Twenty-five years after releasing Giant Sand's first album, Gelb doesn't pull any new tricks out of his sleeves here, but given the many stylistic detours of Giant Sand's history, he can cover plenty of ground while still investigating his established sound, and Gelb and his latest band of collaborators are in truly fine fettle. Blurry Blue Mountain sounds both loose and tight; while nothing seems overworked, Gelb and his musicians (particularly Peter Dombernowsky on drums and Thoget T.
It isn't often you find something connecting the South Korean football team, Salvador Dali, and the band up for review; so it's best to mention it at the beginning. During the 1994 World Cup, it was mooted that the entire Korean team had undergone hypnosis to overcome a perceived inferiority to their next opponents, the mighty West Germany. They battled to a 3-2 defeat, which was as close to a win as they were ever likely to get.
On "Chunk of Coal", the second song on Blurry Blue Mountain, Howe Gelb sings: "I was lonesome and the wind blew bold/ I was lucky she had the eye to find the diamond in this chunk of coal. " It seems to be about Gelb's romantic life, a woman he loves who loves him back, but the second half of the couplet also works as a model for Giant Sand fandom. Finding the diamond in the band's music is sometimes difficult-- for more than 25 years, Gelb has led various versions of the band on a winding path that began with ragged desert rock and has since mellowed to something that sounds like confessional singer/songwriter music.
A worthy addition to a catalogue already embarrassed with riches. Andrew Mueller 2010 It would appear that the imminent reissue of Giant Sand’s vast and influential canon, by way of commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Arizona band’s foundation, has prompted a degree of existential contemplation in mainman Howe Gelb. Blurry Blue Mountain opens with an explicit examination of Gelb’s position called Fields of Green.
[b]Howe Gelb[/b], the long-term brains behind Arizona’s screwy country hybridists [a]Giant Sand[/a], has been releasing records for 30 years in myriad guises: only [b]Stewart Lee[/b] will ever own all of them (citation needed – he is an überfan, though). Enjoying the sort of breakout-eluding cult existence typified by the side-project – mariachi aces [a]Calexico[/a] – becoming bigger than the main deal, first impressions of [a]Giant Sand[/a] can seem forbidding. The actual music on [b]‘Blurry Blue Mountain’[/b], however, is warm and enveloping.
Although released to approximately coincide with the 25th anniversary and reissue of the band’s Valley Of Rain debut LP, Howe Gelb’s latest album with Giant Sand is – in typical contrary form – far from being a magnanimous celebration or ex-member reunion affair that some might have expected. In fact, it’s a rather subdued set, picking-up where 2008’s proVISIONS left-off by taking that record’s nocturnal desert-highway cruising further into rueful and romantic rusticism, with the latter-day Giant Sand line-up powering a largely low-noise engine for Gelb’s solitary steering. The opening acoustically-pattered “Fields Of Green” is destined to have Gelb fanatics paw over its lyric sheet, as he seems to openly review his career to date and address his elder statesman status; “Now I amble over fifty/And the longest hours move so swiftly/Such young fresh folk look to me as pathfinder.