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Giant Sand

Giant Sand was the primary outlet for the stylistic curveballs and sun-damaged songcraft of Howe Gelb, a Pennsylvania-born singer/guitarist who formed the four-piece Giant Sandworms after relocating to Tuscon, Arizona in the mid-'70s. After releasing the EP Will Wallow and Roam After the Ruin in 1980, Gelb fired everyone but bassist Scott Gerber (although founding guitarist Rainer Ptacek returned to the fold many times in the future) and started over as simply Giant Sand, essentially a one-man band backed by a revolving cast of players.

The first Giant Sand LP, 1985's Valley of Rain, earned Gelb comparisons to Neil Young for his reedy vocals and country-flavored, grungy guitar aesthetic; like Young, Gelb also proved to be a restless creative spirit, a notice served by 1986's Ballad of a Thin Line Man, an acoustic effort that featured the harmony vocals of ex-Go-Go (and Gelb's then-girlfriend) Paula Jean Brown. In 1988, Giant Sand issued a pair of new LPs, the equally diffuse Storm and The Love Songs.

By 1989's raw, improvisational Long Stem Rant, the group consisted only of Gelb and drummer John Convertino, while 1990's Swerve featured guests like Juliana Hatfield and Poi Dog Pondering. Ramp (1991) and Center of the Universe (1992) returned to the ragged desert rock of their earliest material, but with 1994's Glum (the band's first and only effort for major-label Imago), Giant Sand's music turned unexpectedly moody and restrained. Backyard Barbecue Broadcast, released in 1995, culled material from a pair of live radio sets.

In addition to Giant Sand, Gelb occasionally recorded under the guise of the Band of Blacky Ranchette, an outlet for his country leanings; in 1991, he also issued a solo album, Dreaded Brown Recluse. In addition, longtime drummer Convertino moonlighted in the lounge revival group Friends of Dean Martinez, and frequent collaborator Ptacek often performed as a solo artist prior to his cancer-related death on November 12, 1997. Chore of Enchantment, the first Giant Sand release on noted indie Thrill Jockey, followed in early 2000. That was followed by the all-covers Cover Magazine in 2002 and a new studio album called All Over the Map in 2004. They made the switch to Yep Roc for 2008's Provisions, and marked their 25th anniversary two years later with the album Blurry Blue Mountain.

Gelb expanded his vision of the band and paid tribute to his adopted home with Tucson, a self-described country-rock opera under the moniker Giant Giant Sand, which arrived in July 2012. As Fire Records began an extensive reissue campaign of Giant Sand's back catalog and Gelb released a pair of solo efforts (2013's The Coincidentalist and 2014's Radian Verses Howe Gelb), Giant Sand returned in 2015 with Heartbreak Pass, which included guest appearances by Grant-Lee Phillips, Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, and Ilse DeLange of the Common Linnets.

In February 2016, Howe Gelb issued a press release in which he announced the upcoming release of a new album from the group, The Sun Sets, and a tour of Europe, as well as the surprising news that Giant Sand was breaking up. "30 years seems an adequate number to aptly utter 'I kinda quit,'" Gelb said in his statement. "There’s plenty enough here, more than imaginable." The release did suggest that Gelb would continue to make music as a solo artist, stating, "Piano for now. Songs forever." ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Heartbreak Pass

1. Heaventually

2. Texting Feist

3. Hurtin' Habit

4. Transponder

5. Song So Wrong

6. Every Now And Then

7. Man On A String

8. Home Sweat Home

9. Eye Opening

10. Pen To Paper

11. Bitter Suite

12. House In Order

13. Gypsy Candle

14. Done

15. Forever And Always

x

Track List: Blurry Blue Mountain

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

x

Track List: *Provisions*

1. Stranded Pearl

2. Without A Word

3. Can Do

4. Out There

5. The Desperate Kingdom Of Love

6. Increment Of Love

7. Spiral

8. Pitch And Sway

9. Muck Machine

10. Belly Full Of Fire

11. Saturated Beyond Repair

12. World's State Park

13. Well Enough Alone

x

Track List: Giant Sand Is All Over The Map

1. Classico

2. NYC Of Time

3. Remote

5. Cracklin Water

6. Rag

7. Muss

8. Drab

9. Fool

10. Les Forcats Innocents

11. Napoli

12. Hood (View From The Heidelburg Hotel)

13. A Classico Reprise

14. Anarchistic Bolshevistic Cowboy Bundle

15. Ploy

x

Track List: Cover Magazine

1. El Paso / Out On The Weekend

2. Johnny Hit And Run Pauline

3. Iron Man

4. Human / Lovely Head

5. The Beat Goes On

6. Plants And Rags

7. Wayfaring Stranger / Fly Me To The Moon

8. Red Right Hand

9. King Of The Road

10. I'm Leaving Now

11. Blue Marble Girl

12. The Inner Flame

13. The Beat Goes On

x

Track List: Chore Of Enchantment

1. Overture

2. (Well) Dusted (For The Millennium)

3. Punishing Sun

4. X-Tra Wide

5. 1972

6. Temptation Of Egg

7. Raw

8. Wolfy

9. Shiver

10. Dirty From The Rain

11. Astonished (In Memphis)

12. No Reply

13. Satellite

14. Bottom Line Man

15. Way To End The Day

16. Shrine

Comments

Report as inappropriate
kimberbeast
agree with shinyaz I listened to that album nonstop when I got it at a live show back then ... they played a vaccum cleaner as an instrument on stage it was insane!!
Report as inappropriate
He was around before Lanegan ya dorks. Learn your history.
Report as inappropriate
jhernandez19 8 1
Does Mark Lanegan get a piece of the action, cause this cat is wearing his clothes and driving his car.
Report as inappropriate
sounds just like mark lanegan
Report as inappropriate
I think their best album is 1991's Ramp. Too bad it's not here.
Report as inappropriate
Giant Sand is awesome!

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