As part of our Discover Series, we highlight Howe Gelb & Giant Sand’s prolific discography with a sale across their catalogue on Fire. Use code GS25 at checkout to receive a 25% discount.
Artist of the month for 40 years standing: Howe Gelb has many masks, monikers and mannerisms – Giant Sand, The Band Of Blacky Ranchette, Arizona Amp And Alternator, etc, etc and of course solo. Over time, he’s welcomed a cavalcade of the friends and allies – Bonnie Prince Billy, Lisa Germano, Jason Lyttle, PJ Harvey and many more – to his intimate sessions. He’s been likened to Thelonius Monk and Neil Young, he’s covered Hendrix, Mancini, The Temptations and Jim Reeves and written songs that rattle around the brain like old friends heading over for a chat.
Along the way he’s recorded albums that define alt country, that re-imagine rockabilly, and de-colour lounge jazz. He’s gone Sabbath on grunge, created lilting Morricone-style mariachi and played solo, humming into his guitar, or with a gargantuan cross-cultural combo who crafted a Broadway-ready musical interpretation of his native Arizona.
A host of media enthusiasts, from Rolling Stone to Pitchfork have collated top tens of his bravest, most imaginative and seemingly most out-there albums from the last four decades and all of these wondrous sounds are available through Fire, in many cases remastered with many additional items. It’s fair to say it’s impossible to catalogue Howe’s wares but for starters there is:
‘Glum’, the beatnik collision of rockabilly and grunge, the alt country starting point; ‘Sno Angel’ a soul-searching gospel-tinged triumph; ‘Tucson: A Country Rock Opera’ by Giant Giant Sand – the big band incarnation heading straight for the stage, the other extreme from the minimal ‘Dust Bowl’, filled with back porch meanderings crocheted with real life wonderment, or the aching ‘Chore Of Enchantment’, a beauty with the aid of Jim Dickinson dedicated to original sparring partner Rainer Ptacek.
The list is of course endless and filled with cathartic highs and tear stained lows; there’s ‘Love Songs’ where Gelb “inhabits the ghost of Elmore James” or his “more country” Black Ranchette guise that gushes with pedal steel and dobro. Or there’s the welcoming refuge for lost souls, that comes with a fridge full of beer and a jukebox that powers the ‘Arizona Amp And Alternator’, a laidback star-studded stop over, the after show for which rolls into the night on his disharmonic “jazz” piano album ‘Spun Some Piano’.
Howe Gelb is a man for all seasons with a tune for every soundtrack, sitting high in the saddle, cranking up the feedback or plucking lazily on a detuned banjo, he’s armed with words that ring true and stories of unbridled happenstance.
“A wandering troubadour in search of treasured happenstance.” The Quietus
“Gelb’s long-held fascination with words, particularly the way certain ones rub up against one another or encourage an allusive phrase, usually stretched over an odd meter, is a joy.” Uncut