- by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:9 Release Date:2019-09-20 Label: Fire Records
There is one thing Howe Gelb doesn’t do, and that is stop. After all the countless albums, band incarnations, solo outings, collaborations, contributions to others and production jobs, judging by the quality of the music he has come up so far - he shouldn’t. Whether it is his mutant Americana, straight-ahead country, jazz, collaborations with Flamenco musicians or gospel choir, or promoting brilliant talent along the way (Rainer, M. Ward, Richard Buckner to name just a few), or coming up with a subgenres that some of his spin-offs have popularized (Calexico), he barely made a musical misstep. Personally, I haven’t found one so far.
And then, there is one thing that he always does, keeps thinking about his music both forward and backward. It is a Gelb constant that each and every album of his includes a track or tracks that he has re-done, re-worked, re-thought. If you’ve heard one live version of one of his staple songs, the next time around you will hear a completely different one.
So it is no wonder, that he has now turned his hand at re-thinking and re-working some of his initial albums. Last year he started out with his Giant Sand debut, Valley Of Rain, now it is time to re-do his sophomore effort The Ballad Of Thin Line Man (1986), this time going under the title of Recounting The Ballads Of Thin Line Men.
With this incarnation of Giant Sand stripped to a trio, Gelb and Tommy Larkins (drums) and Thøger Lund (bass), that is exactly what Gelb goes for - a re-visioned version of mutant Americana that is one of his staples, keeping the rocking, uptempo element to the eleven tracks here. But then the number of tracks is also important to mention, as he drops a couple of tracks from the original version, adds “Reptilian” (the track that opens the album) from the original albums 25th-anniversary re-issue, and then changes the song order all over.
What we get in the end is the all-out rocking version of the original that certainly sounds even better live, but then, as always with Gelb, you cannot be certain that will be what you get when you see him on stage next time around.