Giant Sand Blurry Blue Mountain

During the past 25 years, Howe Gelb has released close to 50 albums under various guises, but he keeps coming back to his original band, Giant Sand, again and again. And while at one time it was a stable unit that contrasted his other dalliances, these days that isn't the case. For album number 17, he's joined by a quartet of Danes, most of whom he's played with before, although it's still one of his more stripped down records in quite some time. Gelb is in top form, spinning yarns, playing with language and revelling in the niche that he carved for himself over the years. Much of the album conjures images of the Arizonan deserts where Gelb used to make his home, but he continues to stretch his wings. "Thin Line Man," with its urgent clatter, sounds like one of Nick Cave's murder ballads, while the addition of honky tonk piano on several songs helps add increased melody to places his voice can't. This is another solid album from one of the most dependable artists around. (Fire)