Howe Gelb

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Howe Gelb

Howe Gelb has traveled many a long and dusty mile to get to his place of prominence as an elder statesman of freewheeling Americana and "Erosion Rock"; A brand of music changing with the elements on a daily basis as nature intended, like giant sand, believing that continuous evolution should be a palpable element in music, as when when songs were first handed over again and again, before the frozen capture of a recording studio.
Born in 1956, had moved to Tucson, Arizona, as a teen in the early 1970s after his home was destroyed by flood back in Pennsylvania. When not on the road, he lives with his family in Barrio Santa Rosa. Although "Endlessly restlessly wanderlusted encrusted", he's well settled in the desert caliche where it takes him an hour to dig a small hole in the desert floor, there where the sunrise hurts. 
He's collected his players and bands in Denmark and Spain, and one with a full gospel choir attached in Canada, but they call his music Americana anyway. Howe just says he's "from Earth".
In 1980, Gelb formed the post punk band Giant Sandworms, with his close friend Rainer Ptacek, the renowned slide guitarist and beloved Tucson icon. Rainer died from brain cancer in 1997, and you can't talk long with Gelb without his name coming up.
Giant Sand emerged in 1983 and released that group's debut album, Valley of Rain in 1985. In the 25 years since, he has released an estimated 40 albums or so as Giant Sand, The Band of... Blacky Ranchette, OP8, Howe Gelb solo releases and other collaborations. He's not sure of the exact amount.
Since his first release was facilitated by handing out a rough mixed cassette to a touring band passing through Tucson in the early 80s, he then continued the tradition by doing the same for Grandaddy and M. Ward when they handed him theirs along the way. And yes, Calexico was his former rhythm section, introducing them boys to each other and Tucson itself in the early 90s.
The new Giant Sand record, Blurry Blue Mountain, was released a year ago  on Fire Records, hit the #1 Canadian College Chart position earlier this year for 2 weeks and brilliantly includes all of the mashed-up genres that reflects the band's credo from the get-go.
Fire is also reissuing 30 albums from Giant Sand's entire back catalog (complete with remastering of the early titles) and nicely marks the 25th year of Giant Sand releases to date.

The current line up of Giant Sand now numbers 10 or 12 at any given moment, thus becoming the new band:
Giant Giant Sand
... will be exclusively featured at this years Heartland Festival in Vevey, Switzerland Oct. 28, 2011
Gelb's most recent solo release, Alegrias, by Howe Gelb and A Band of Gypsies, was recorded on a roof top inCordoba, Spain over the last several years. The band is a collection of Andalusian Gypsies, featuring guitarist extraordinaire Raimundo Amador, that is, quite frankly, stunning in its subtle mesh of the 2 worlds colliding.
Gene Armstrong, Tucson  journalist and premier music writer of the last 3 decades jots:
"How do you write about a musician who has spent more than 30 years defying musical conventions? You could trot out all the cliched rock-critic terms: seminal, hyperbole, incendiary, eponymous, masterful, achingly poignant, priceless, alt-country, old-school, outlaw. Some of those might even fit if you shoehorned them into context.
Howe Gelb long has been saddled with such titles as "godfather of alt-country" and "elder ambassador of desert rock." When confronted with such accolades, he clears his throat, amused and a little embarrassed, and he ponders. His summer-sun squint turns into a twinkle when he finally asks his questioner, 'What do you think of it?'
In three decades he's managed to combine elements of rock, country, blues, punk, garage, lo-fi, jazz, gospel, avant-garde noise and flamenco gypsy music. Guitar and piano are his weapons of tumult. He sings like a gruff angel, a town crier tapping you on the shoulder, reminding you that the world need not be seen in the conventional ways to which we revert when the world goes blurry. He weaves impressionistic imagery into personal narrative and indulges listeners in expansive observations of the world. In his early years there had been comparisons to artists along the paradoxical lines of Neil Young, David Byrne, Bob Dylan and Captain Beefheart, comparisons that all fit clumsily. Nowadays, other artists get compared to Gelb."


Browse through all of Howe's releases by clicking your way here.

New Albums

Dust Bowl

Album Cover - Dust Bowl by Howe Gelb


Album Cover - Alegrias by Howe Gelb & A Band of Gypsies
<a href="">Alegrias by Howe Gelb & A Band of Gypsies</a>


Uneven Light of Day Video

Howe Gelb

Giant Sand

"These recordings were done in the space between the waking world and the sleeping one. there exists a point there with a broad landscape that has seldom been loitered in. as with every previous album, none of this was planned. every record has its own atmosphere. for me they are always a new place to live in and spend some time before moving on. On this album, it happened that every session we were able to record came between work loads that rendered us at that point of sleeping and waking. like the poppy fields in wizard of oz, we went in and out of consciousness at various times during recording. This is not a bad thing. nor does it make the record sound like we're asleep. it has the momentum of that place between sleep and being awake. and in that narrow slip of existence lies a landscape of reason that most of us hurry past in daily lives. this record is planted firmly there"
"Between the crystal clear focus of your day to day and the luxury of sweet fuzzy sleep, we welcome you to the blurry blue mountain". ~ Howe Gelb


Browse through all of Giant Sand's releases by clicking your way here.


Giant Sand Video


  • Giant Sand Photo
  • Giant Sand Photo
  • Giant Sand Photo

New Album

Blurry Blue Mountain

Album Cover - Blue Burry Mountain by Giant Sand

Track Listing

  1. Fields of Green
  2. Chunk of Coal
  3. The Last One
  4. Monk's Mountain
  5. Spellbound
  6. Ride the Rail
  7. Lucky Star Love
  8. Thin Line Man
  9. No Tellin'
  10. Brand New Swamp Thing
  11. Erosion
  12. Time Flies
  13. Better Man Than Me
  14. Love a Loser

"Chunk of Coal"

Howe Gelb & A Band of Gypsies

Howe Gelb and a bunch of Flamenco gypsies flowing freely from Cordoba, Andalusia.


Let's redefine the meaning of crossover. The album recorded by Howe Gelb and a bunch of flamenco gypsies in Cordoba, Spain, sounds like absolutely nothing else you have ever heard before, yet it maintains the familiar flavor of the Arizona desert Gelb has been shaping throughout the years, both solo and as the leader of seminal pioneers Giant Sand. It flows as naturally as if it had always been there, waiting for someone to grasp its pieces and put them together.

Back in the late ã80s when Howe Gelb used to live in Joshua Tree he only had three tapes he could listen to in his car: Tom Waits, Miles Davis and Tomatito, the virtuoso flamenco player. Many years later, a lucky combination of hazard and destiny found him jamming in a home studio in Cordoba (the studio has now gone professional and is named Recordoba after these sessions) with some local musicians: Lin CortŽs, Juan Punky and A–il, Ramos, Inma, çngela, Roc’o, Prin' La L‡. C—rdoba, the same city mentioned by Obama in a recent speech as an example of tolerance and cross of different cultures living together: Arabs, Jews and Christians lived together in C—rdoba for centuries, and the town retains a certain magic atmosphere you can't find anywhere else.

The gypsies didn't speak English, but they could play Spanish guitar and cajon like only drunk devils can. Howe doesn't speak Spanish, apart from a few useful words he learnt by the Mexican border, but he's got a grainy voice that disarms any listener, and started playing piano in a way the gypsies had never seen. They all instantly fell in love with
each other and played for hours without end. Words didn't work, but glances and chords did the job. That same night, in the room downstairs from the studio, Howe wrote four new songs inspired by the intensity of the moment.

In the control room was Fernando Vacas, one of the Spanish top producers of the recent years (the man behind the enormous mainstream success of young Spanish female folk- singer Russian Red). Recording everything and thinking ahead: there might be a record there, not only a friendly meeting. New songs, new sound, a million ideas in his head. On the second session, Raimundo Amador popped in, and that unleashed the magic and took it to even higher grounds. Raimundo is a huge star in Spain, a super talented guitar player who has played with the likes of Bjšrk and B.B. King. He invented the crossover between flamenco and psychedelic rock back in the late 70's with his bands Veneno and Pata Negra, and his contributions to the album are truly mindblowing, including a superb pure flamenco guitar introduction to one of the main tracks on the album, "Cowboy Boots on Cobblestones".

Mixed in Bristol by John Parish, this album, ÒAlegriasÓ, by Howe Gelb and A Band of Gypsies, is still a country-folk record, but soaked with the collision of flamenco flavor, latin rhythms and indie-rock. Gelb, Vacas, Amador et al. have managed to capture the magic of this new music and present it in the form of an astonishingly beautiful album.

New Album


Album Cover - Alegrias by Howe Gelb & A Band of Gypsies
<a href="">Alegrias by Howe Gelb & A Band of Gypsies</a>




  • Howe Gelb & Band of Gypsies Photo
  • Howe Gelb & Band of Gypsies Photo
  • Howe Gelb & Band of Gypsies Photo
  • Howe Gelb & Band of Gypsies Photo

Melted Wires

last year in december, we gathered to rehearse for a benefit show to help with a local tucson school (miles exploratory learning center) and its defunct music + art programs. it was an informal cluster, 2 from giant sand and 2 from calexico, which in itself merited a sweet symbol of holiday spirit and friendship above all else. it included my old friend and band mate, john convertino on drums, jacob valenzuela on trumpet, and thøger t. lund on upright bass.

we gathered and played in a way unlike most sessions, but much the same as the fabled w. eugene smith recordings from the late 50s/ early 60s in his infamous new york ‘jazz loft’. he had wired his drafty space in order to record at a moment’s notice the scores of jazz musicians that would meet there after their club gigs had finished. those kind of jams were players playing for themselves and each other. this kind of capture was unlike any studio session or live gig.

(it should be noted that all the rehearsal sessions to my favorite thelonious monk recording of all time were recorded here in smith’s loft with hall overton presiding. ironically, the entire accumulation of all that taping has been since stockpiled and stashed in a secret room right here in tucson at the university of arizona since 1978.)

[perhaps one footnote more, previously to smith leaving his family in jersey and setting up residence in the dank jazz loft, he was hired by the cia to shoot a series of photographs in spain in the 50s to be used as propaganda in order to influence this country’s conscious in supporting the “poor” peasants of spain and bolster such assistance by setting up a military base there.]

but i digress … the point being that the session you have here called ‘melted wires’ is symbiotic with the sound of that jazz loft. players playing for the sheer love of it. it has a wonderful looseness, a playfulness that couldn’t happen in any formal recording or live presentation. an accidental conclave. a spin of the room. a stop of the clock.

especially here in the approaching season, a shared moment, a glimpse of happenstantial yippity, a sonic embrace. you can hear the band grabbing old songs and playing inside them like it was recess time in the school yard as well as new piano excursions with their own exploratory spelunking.

these songs were as they were, done live and unadorned with dubs or arrangement, except for the exceptional frolic of “holiday eyes”. on that track john added vibraphone and i added my 7 year old talula.

the name ‘melted wires’ was said to be of my invention, but i have no memory of it, and so simply allow it to tag us rightly. some fun in a room with the record button on. although not everything recorded correctly, and not everything recorded rightly, but all of it done as the fates determined and with a definitive joy and splendor of cluster. may you have a wonderful season and a better year ahead. maybe these ‘melted wires’ can assist in such inception, or at least fill the void between connections, electrical or time elapsed, where wires matter less then.

howe gelb
(thanksgiving, 2010)

New Album

Melted Wires

Album Cover - Melted Wires by Melted Wires
  • howe gelb – piano, guitar, vocals
  • john convertino – drums, vibes
  • thøger t. lund – upright bass
  • jacob valenzuela – trumpet

© 2010 all songs written by howe gelb except;

  • 'cordoba in winter' by h. gelb, j. convertino, t. lund + j. valenzuela
  • 'cordoba in summer' by t. lund + h. gelb
  • 'hit single' by j. convertino + h. gelb
  • 'the end again' by t. lund, j. convertino + h. gelb

recorded in tucson, arizona at wavelab studio nov./dec. 2009 and mixed by chris shultz. "holiday eyes" mixed by craig schumacher and features talula gelb on vocals. mastered by jim blackwood. thanks to nicola freegard @ the compound:

Snarl Some Piano

this record is the 4th in my endless piano triology.

once completed, its usefulness was realized. stuck in rush hour one afternoon, this record fused nicely with the choke hold of commute and served the drive well by ridding the ride of traffic snarl. it can now be recommend as a handy tool when transit is seized by gridlock. play this thing to get the traffic flowing again. the barriers of roadway clot bend with recourse of mood change and here is where we might as well offer a money back guarantee.

another ingredient worth mentioning is that this record employs a form of improvisation, making up songs in the moment of impact, never intended to be played again. they are a chance dance of the fingers, choreographed for the instant incident, captured for the re-visitation by what recording was ever meant to me; a record of what happened on that day.

the particular sound of the piano was due to the laying on of 3 guitar pick-ups across random strings so as to allow a dimensional effect. sorry if it perturbs some tender lobes, but it turns out to be very useful within the snarl of traffic.

the first 7 tracks are recorded with peter dombernowsky on drums and thøger t. lund on upright bass, at wavelab studios in tucson, AZ by chris schultz in january 2010.

track 8 was done at home on my 1888 88s, with peter on cajon and thøger on upright bass and track editing. no guitar pick-ups were utilized. it should be noted the piano is tuned a whole step down as was per intended by manufacturer before the standard of ‘concert pitch’ was instigated in the early 1900s. therefore C is really Bb.

the final 2 tracks are with thøger on bass again, but feature john convertino on drums and jacob valenzuela on trumpet for track 10. this session was a missing track from the ‘melted wires’ recordings that can be found at our web site for further investigation.

i hope you will be happy with the quality of our product. we aim to please. especially, as in this case, when stuck in snarl.

- howe gelb feb. 22, 2011

New Album

Snarl Some Piano

Album Cover - Snarl Some Piano by Howe Gelb

© 2011 all songs written by howe gelb, scatterland by little darlin’, BMI, except;

  • tracks # 1, 2 & 4 by thøger t. lund, peter dombernowsky, and howe gelb
  • artwork Nicola Freegard

Giant Giant Sand

giant giant sand was formed by nature one imploding evening on stage, probably berlin .. maybe vevey  .. and since then an album has amassed tween the scatter of christmas and the tickle of a new year’s eve ... besting not to insult that nature before the gifted year would have already made its escape  ..  then, once the songs were culmed, twere shaken up and tossed out across the kitchen table  ..  a pattern was discernable in their sprawl  .. ... a story line was then thread to connect them in hopes it might assist in the short attention span of our youth and the onslaught of dementia for the rest of us  .. .  since no available spoken word was stitched in to such a lining of this coat of songs, an opera plopped outa her .. not a propera .. a popera  of country rock proportions thanks to pedal steel  with an open door policy to any passing cumbia  ... thanks in no small part to the influx of the young bloods now in tow hailing from the city of tucson itself, the band now bloated with members 30 years the junior of such senior membership as well as the rapidly encroaching middle age of the danes still in cluster from the last 10 years  .. . and the sonic embrace of lonna up the road from phoenix, and maggie from copenhagen too.

though the story line is handed out in 3 parts .. it should be noted it is intended only as a part of the entertainment factor to bolster the drab world of liner notes .. and not a necessary thing for the listener part part 1: the setting and the allure of escape part 2: the tangle of love part 3: the community and its endurance all parts set to the time line of here and 12 minutes from now while the world shrugs us off a bit

perhaps best to have the new york times best offer the clarity of their fine writership :

GIANT GIANT SAND. “Tucson” (Fire)

An amiable improbability has sustained Howe Gelb’s band Giant Sand since 1983. Based in Tucson, Giant Sand grounds its music in the country-and-Mexican heritage of the Southwest, although the longtime core of the band hails from Denmark, and Mr. Gelb has, through the years, dipped into flamenco, psychedelic rock, punk and other noisy whims.

For “Tucson,” Mr. Gelb added six more musicians to the band — hence the renamed Giant Giant Sand — including a Mexican-American contingent that provides more direct connections to cumbia, bolero and mariachi. He also strung a story line through 19 songs, enough to subtitle the album “A Country Rock Opera” and to supply a detailed visual and psychological scenario in the liner notes.

It’s a tale of wanderings through surreal desert landscapes, of romance lost and found, of nature and fate and of the ways they all mirror one another: “You’re so much like the river, beautiful twisted and blue/You appear to be here forever, but really just passing through,” Mr. Gelb sings at the end of the album.

But the plot’s not the thing. The opera’s main character — described by Mr. Gelb as “a semi-grizzled man with overt boyish naïveté” — is the kind of existential drifter who’s been ambling through Mr. Gelb’s songs all these years, a figure (and singer) who ponders and aphorizes like Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Tom Waits. His route on “Tucson” is mostly a pretext for waltzes, rockabilly shuffles, quietly torchy ballads and bouncy Mexican cumbias.

A few songs are written or sung by other band members, notably Brian Lopez, who brings a tremulous croon to his own philosophizing in “Love Comes Over You,” and Lonna Kelley, who teases through the slinky, finger-snapping “Ready or Not,” wondering, “When the end of the world comes near, will you be ready?”.

Although the band is large, it doesn’t pile on all at once. Steel guitar, accordion, mariachi trumpet, lounge piano or a small string section are available as needed, but most of the music stays modest and intimate, staying out of the way of the graceful tunes and laconic thoughts. Mr. Gelb makes himself cozy in wide-open spaces.


GIANT GIANT SAND now includes Brian Lopez, Gabriel Sullivan and Jon Villa bringing their Mex-American plunk to the album with a permeating cumbia slant, A string duo from Aarhus, Denmark, (where the other Danes were coincidently from) Asger Christensen and Iris Jakobsen, who was also born in Tucson, and Lonna Kelley from Phoenix adorning the mic and Maggie Bjorklund leaning on the pedal steel from Copenhagen, together with the band from the last 10 years featuring Thøger T. Lund, Peter Dombernowski, Anders Pedersen, Nikolaj Heyman and Howe Gelb.


Browse through all of Giant Sand's releases by clicking your way here.


Giant Giant Sand Video


  • Giant Giant Sand Photo
  • Giant Giant Sand Photo
  • Giant Giant Sand Photo
  • Giant Giant Sand Photo

New Album


Album Cover - Tucson by Giant Giant Sand

Track Listing

  1. Wind Blown Waltz
  2. Forever And A Day
  3. Detained
  4. Lost Love
  5. Plane of Existence
  6. Undiscovered Country
  7. Love Comes Over You
  8. Thing Like That
  9. The Sun Belongs To You
  10. We Don't Play Tonight
  11. Ready Or Not
  12. Mostly Wrong
  13. Hard Morning In A Soft Blur
  14. Recovery Mission
  15. Slag Heap
  16. Not The End Of The World
  17. Carinito
  18. Out Of The Blue
  19. New River


Upcoming Shows

No shows booked at the moment.

Latest News



November 19, 2014



Howe Gelb (Giant Sand) has spent the better part of the last thirty years cultivating a catalog of idiosyncratic works that speak to the listener in a particular, sharp voice. Grant Lee Phillips (Grant Lee Buffalo) on the other hand is a songwriter who speaks from an evocative baritone/tenor to wide, open landscapes. The decision to share billing for a tour along the East Coast, west into the heartland and further back South is a brilliant if odd pairing, as evidenced by their appearance at Johnny D’s just north of Boston.

Gelb took the stage first because, as he explained, he “is older than Grant, and therefore has less time.” This sly humor set a tone for the evening as the songsmith cycled between acoustic guitar, electric piano and an electric guitar capable of an entire range of sound of its own.

It was clear that the majority of the audience in the house that night were unfamiliar with and somewhat jarred by the songs that Howe Gelb spun for the evening. Like a Pennsylvanian turned Arizonan, adjusting to this climate gradually but deftly, Gelb refused to abstain fully from the quirks nature of his catalog but remained in the deceptive familiarity of blues rock and minor-key jazz, challenging the audience to shed notions of the mundane and comfortable. At the close of his set, he invited co-headliner Grant Lee Phillips to join him, much to the audience’s delight.

In revue style, Phillips continued on without intermission immediately following Gelb’s departure from the stage. Only a brief few of the songs performed were derived from his tenure with 90s darlings Grant Lee Buffalo, while the lion’s share of tunes were culled from his acclaimed career as an alt-country solo songwriter. Perhaps the most poignant moment of his set came from a tune (ostensibly titled “Moccasin Creek”) which Phillips had written for and dedicated to his father.

Soon thereafter, Grant invited Howe Gelb back onto the stage to share another tune. Gelb toned down his “second set” mostly to “acoustic songs” played at the electric piano, with pointed lyrics like “You don’t miss your water til your well runs dry / You don’t miss your spark ’til the night is cold” (“Chunk of Coal”) peppered with wry asides like “I think Robert Johnson said that.”

One of Gelb’s finest moments, and perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening did not come at the piano, however. With electric guitar in hand and a clean tone from his amplifier, the songwriter ad-libbed a beautiful spoken word blues rap in honor of fellow songwriter and close friend Rainer Ptacek, leading into a haunting rendition of the gospel folk song “Wayfaring Stranger,” made even more poignant on the eve of the anniversary of Ptacek’s passing (November 12, 1997; “…the veil is thin tonight,” quipped Phillips earlier in the evening).

Grant Lee Phillips joined the stage for one more tune, “I Always Get Lucky With You” (a pop-country hit for George Jones) done as a tongue-in-cheek, bombastic ballad with Howe Gelb once again  at the piano. This irreverent, sideways take on the country classic was a perfect close to the evening, indicative of the strange but powerful combination of two master songsmiths from the American West.




Alegrias nominated for Best Music Production – June 2011

Japan Recovery – Benefit Downloads

Arts Education Benefit – Howe Gelb & Friends

Book of Lies

DAY 3 – AUGUST 14 = vienna, austria 8/13/12 2:08 AM

vienna today .. my granpa’s old stomping grounds ..

get up early after a restless night of jet lag .. jb drives me to the little airport outside of rotterdam .. we hang .. we talk .. we plan

then off to vienna with only my carry on back pack … but i have toothpaste and aveeno gunk in it to last the entire tour
… they say its too much to fly with … head back to check my bag in .. they say its too late to check it .. head back to check with security again and finally i just start squirting the lotion in a baggy until they think its the allotted 100 ml .. i mean .. i just wanna see what happens and its rather comic to fill a baggy with that spermy looking muck .. and the confused looking security woman looks over at the head security dude who happens by just then and allows me to bring my tubes anyway …. extra baggy muck and all

we have also picked up our new tour manager .. wolfgang from the linz festival we did a couple months ago .. and today was his daughter’s birthday .. and now he rides with us .. joined our circus .. and away

.. the end

– - —

airport is easy in vienna and outside is a sterling day .. beeeeeautiful

carlos fetches me and delivers .. then he’s gone forever
the venue is the arena .. they plant me backstage in a sunny big windowed room and the breezes delight .. vienna feels fine

i doze on the couch .. then the tv people wake me up .. do the interview .. and then doze again

… bus arrives late in the day and everyone seems happy ..

sound check goes on again for a while .. and the show tonight turns out to be the best i have ever played in my life .. ever

it has grand spectrum .. vast contours … spine tingling jams .. and just a lovely night of music .. but man .. them contours were vast

the night took a pleasant coolness after the performance .. i was tired .. but after the shower and some chat with some old friends there .. just sat out in the night air and soaked in vienna like it was mine to soak in .. thanks granpa

the end


Howe Gelb

Howe Gelb - Dreaded Brown Recluse (1991) - Remastered
Howe Gelb - 'Incidental Music (1979)
Howe Gelb - Lull Some Piano (2001)
Howe Gelb - Hisser (1998)
Howe Gelb - Curtis John & Sue (1980)
Howe Gelb - Ogle Some Piano (2004)
Howe Gelb - Confluence (2001)
Howe Gelb - Upside Down Home (1998)
Howe Gelb - Spun Some Piano (2008)
Howe Gelb - The Listener (2003)
Howe Gelb - Upside Down Home (2000)
Howe Gelb - Snarl Some Piano (2011)Buy2011
Howe Gelb - Sno' Angel Like You (2006)
Howe Gelb - Upside Down Home 2002 (2002)
Howe Gelb - Alegrias (2010)Buy2010 Howe Gelb - The Listeners Coffee Companion (2004)
Howe Gelb - Upside Down Home - Year of the Monkey (2004)
Howe Gelb - Upside Down Home - Return to San Pedro (2007)
Howe Gelb - Sno' Angels Winging It (Live) (2009)

Giant Sand

Giant Sand - Valley of Rain (1985)
Giant Sand - Stromausfall/Blackout (1994)
Giant Sand - Ballad of A Thin Line Man (1986)
Giant Sand - Build Your Own Night: Official Bootleg (1997)
Giant Sand - Storm (1987)
Giant Sand - The Rock Opera Years: Official Bootleg (2000)
Giant Sand - The Love Songs (1988)
Giant Sand - Unsungglum (2001)
Giant Sand - Long Stem Rant (1989)
Giant Sand - Too Many Spare Parts in The Yard: Official Bootleg (2002)
Giant Sand - Ramp (1991)
Giant Sand - Provisional Supplement (2008)
Giant Sand - Center of the Universe (1992)
Giant Sand - Off Ramp (2009)
Giant Sand - Purge & Slouch (1993)
best of compilations
Giant Sand - Glum (1994)
Giant Sand - Giant Sandwich (1989)
Giant Sand - Goods & Services (1995)
Giant Sand - Giant Songs: The Best of GS (1989)
Giant Sand - Backyard Barbecue Broadcast (1995)
Giant Sand - Giant Sand Two: The Best (1995)
Giant Sand - Chore of Enchantment (2000)
Giant Sand - Selections 1990-2000 (2001)
Giant Sand - Cover Magazine (2002)
Giant Sand - Is All Over The Map (2004)
Giant Sand -  proVISIONS (2008)
Giant Sand -  Blurry Blue Mountain (2010)
Giant Giant Sand -  Tucson (2012)

Other Stuff

The Band of...
Blacky Ranchette

Band of… Blacky Ranchette - Code of the Road (1985)
Band of... Blacky Ranchette - Heartland (1986)
Band of… Blacky Ranchette - Sage Advice (1990)
Band of… Blacky Ranchette - Still Lookin' Good to Me (2003)


OP8 - Slush (1997)

Arizona Amp
And Alternator

Arizona Amp And Alternator (2005)

Melted Wires

Melted Wires (2011)Buy2011  

Giant Sandworms

Giant Sand Worms - Will Wallow & Roam After The Ruin (1980)
Giant Sand Worms - One Big Tape (1983)
Giant Sand Worms - Don't Turn Away (1986)


Howe Gelb: Smelling The Smoke Of A Future Fire

The Brooklyn Rail review:

by KK Kozik

New York, NY February 5th, 2014

“I can make this bold statement now,” pronounces Howe Gelb, “because I’m well over 50 and we’re allowed to come to conclusions: music in its most pure form is in a state of evolution constantly. I believe that whatever you are doing, however you are playing, it has to keep changing. It is always on its way somewhere. Whatever the music wants from you it will apply itself through you.”

If this seems abstruse for rock ‘n’ roll, that is Gelb. The self-described desert-hillbilly rocker appears on 40 to 50 albums—solo, with his main band, and collaborating with groups from a Canadian gospel choir to Andalusia’s A Band of Gypsies. On his recent The Coincidentalist, Howe tiptoes around a Beat-like faith in the unknowable. If a “coincidentalist” is a medicine man, a seer of signs that mark a trail, then the album is another episode in a meandering story that started with a flood.

In 1972, when Gelb was a teen living with his mother in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River overran the levees, inundating their house. Plan B sent Gelb and his brother to the desert home of their recently remarried father. That a contrast of extremes can provide grist for creativity is hornbook, but when Gelb, playing piano, first jammed with Rainer Ptacek on resonator guitar, his music took flight. Despite, or because of, the acid trip he was on, Gelb perceived with clarity that he and the East German Ptacek “had entered some kind of a sacred sonic bond … he the older brother I never had and didn’t know I so very much needed.”


Howe Gelb. Photo by KK Kozik.


They formed a band, and a dynamic Tucson music scene coalesced around them. The shape-shifting group became Giant Sand (recently Giant Giant Sand), but Ptacek died in 1997, a loss Gelb still feels keenly. “Everything I do that makes the most sense comes from my time with Rainer. All my wild card ideas are from my own muckaluck, but all the … substantial and rooted, zen values came from Rainer. Things would be a lot better if he was around.”

Gelb followed where his musical interests led: the new boxed set of his solo oeuvre, Little Sand Box, documents these perambulations. Always, Gelb’s quirkiness shines through. “In the beginning I made abilities out of my [limitations] and that gave me a sound. … People would say, ‘It sounds weird because it’s made in the desert and it’s hot out there.’ They would come up with excuses for why it [wasn’t] normal or regular … it was just all I could do.” Gelb is ambivalent about the recordings: “When you hear [one], it’s just what happened that day. It would be totally different the next day and it’s how I play every night. I just travel by instinct … whatever I think is good at that time, I try to deliver.”

The Coincidentalist finds Gelb taking his intuitiveness to a new level. “I’m using this method of lyric writing now where … I just let it flow up and usually it doesn’t make any sense and then later it makes some sense and later still it comes true. You have to be open to the happenstance.”

The most potent happenstance on the album is the echo of another musician. From the first growled couplets of “Vortexas,” (“it used to be much cheaper / to find a love and to keep her”) links to Leonard Cohen are easy to find. Surprisingly, Gelb had never thought much about Cohen. It was only after the album had been recorded that Gelb read Sylvie Simmons’s biography of Cohen and the impact hit. “Smell[ing] a smoke from a future fire” is Gelb’s phrase for that phenomenon.

The album leaves more questions than answers. The songs toy with musical tropes: classic country music, spaghetti-western soundtracks. The background vocals are off-kilter and Gelb’s voice often heads in different, thought-provoking directions from standard rock ‘n’ roll. The effect is something like what Cohen terms “charged speech,” the derashas he heard in temple as a child, meant to have gravitas and mystery. Gelb was exposed to the same evocations and considers himself Cohain, of the lineage of Jewish priests descended from Aaron. These reverberations come through in Gelb’s poignant, half-solemn musing on mortality and loss, “Picacho Peak.” He sings, “When I was a child / my daddy taught me how to steer with my knees / Since he left this world it hasn’t felt right.”

“Cohain-wise … There is a ritual […] passed down from father to son … But since my father’s father died so young …My dad didn’t have the ritual to pass on to me. So I’m left with just the DNA imprint. I’ve given some thought as to how it all manifests in the things we do or gravitate to. […] I do allow the inkling of trajectory to possibly help with understanding where this music comes from.? Its just me pondering … Searching for clues, but never ever convinced by any of them … Just keeping an open mind to the possibilities … never relying on them.”


Jim's Vault

Howe Gelb + Friends – Worried Spirits (April 9, 2011 Rialto Theatre – Tucson)

Howe Gelb w/ Victoria Williams, Jacob Valenzuela (from Calexico), and others..   Covering the Rainer song ‘Worried Spirits’.

Recorded + mixed by Jim B.

Giant Sand – The Return Of The Big Red Guitar (March 2, 1989 – WNYU)

Live radio performance from 1989 of a song found on the album Long Stem Rant.

Giant Sand – Conditioned Air (Live At Crazy Beast Studios October 2008)

From an October 2008 session for KUOM at Crazy Beast Studio in Minneapolis, MN.

Giant Sand – Wild Dog Waltz (Rehearsal 1996)

Acoustic rehearsal version of Wild Dog Waltz.Recorded at Howe’s house in 1996.

Giant Sand – Stuck (Live at CBGB’s in 1992)

Giant Sand performing the song Stuck from the release Center Of The Universe – live at the legendary CBGB’s in New York City.


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