A worthy addition to a catalogue already embarrassed with riches.
Andrew Mueller 2010-10-15
It would appear that the imminent reissue of Giant Sand’s vast and influential canon, by way of commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Arizona band’s foundation, has prompted a degree of existential contemplation in mainman Howe Gelb. Blurry Blue Mountain opens with an explicit examination of Gelb’s position called Fields of Green. "Now I’m over 50," he mourns over a gentle acoustic shuffle, "the longest hours move so swiftly… such young fresh folk look to me as pathfinder."
This assertion, delivered in Gelb’s wry, wracked drawl, is redeemed short of outrageous hubris by virtue of being no less than the truth. Giant Sand have always exerted an influence out of all proportion to their relatively modest commercial success – traces of Giant Sand’s gruff, baleful take on modern Americana are discernible all points R.E.M. to Nirvana, and Gelb is well settled into a role as a sort of avuncular sage.
It suits him. Blurry Blue Mountain is a warm, unassuming album, the kind of record made by someone long past trying to impress anybody – which, as is the perverse way of these things, makes it all the more impressive.
Gelb’s songs are, as ever, adroitly trimmed to the limitations of his voice, whether the Tom Waits-ish lament Chunk of Coal, the hungover duet with Lonna Kelley on Lucky Star Love, or the half-spoken Ride the Rail, a romp through the legend of the Molly Maguires, which recalls the modern historical narratives of Corb Lund and Patterson Hood.
Blurry Blue Mountain is not uniformly reflective balladeering, however: old-school rock’n’roll credentials are convincingly brandished on Thin Line Man and Brand New Swamp Thing. The latter in particular sounds exactly like you’d think it would, ie a bit like a resurrected Creedence Clearwater Revival. If Giant Sand had released fewer great albums, Blurry Blue Mountain would sound something close to miraculous. As it is, it’s a worthy addition to a catalogue which was already embarrassed with riches.