The four-year gap between Giant Sand's Is All Over The Map and the new proVISIONS suggests that Howe Gelb may be slowing down after rounding the half-century mark. He's spent more than half his years making grungy, brooding country, and he's got no reason to change things up now: Not too many people still make (or get recording contracts for) this kind of grumbling, atmospheric bar-blues, the kind played in the smoky, solo-bourbon-drinkin' corners of the Southwest's seedy underbelly—so the niche needs Gelb to continue carrying the torch. And proVISIONS isn't exactly more of the same; perhaps aging has had a somber effect, as these sparse songs are more isolated and lonely than Gelb's prior work. His characters rustle through the fringes of society, skirting between sorry and sinister, often against suggestions of an ominous political backdrop (especially on "Pitch & Sway" and "Spiral"). This context of simmering societal turmoil makes his subjects seem like scurrying rats at the approach of oncoming apocalypse, creating a creeping foreboding that permeates. An assortment of contributors both adds to the tension (Neko Case sings on the echoing "Without A Word") and detracts from it (M. Ward only makes the trucker tune "Can Do" even more of a non-fit on the record), but proVISIONS is an older Gelb at his gloomiest.

Advertisement