Howe Gelb – The Coincidentalist (2013)

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Avant-garde and alternative folk-rock twanger Howe Gelb, who also serves as the leader of Giant Sand and godfather of the Tucson music scene, is alternately gruff and sweet on this new project. He uses an intimate whisper to telling old stories, giving you the feeling he could be singing in your own living room — or straight into your ears, if you are using headphones.

The core band on Coincidentalist consists of M. Ward on guitar, Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley on drums and Giant Sand’s bassist Thøger Lund. Guest singer Will Oldham makes the opening song “Vortexas” into an iconographic tribute to Tucson. KT Tunstall enriches “The Deaths of 3 Lucky” with her unique and elegant voice. Despite the subdued atmosphere in the late second half of the album, “Picacho Peak” feels like the emotional centerpiece. Primarily built around the piano and a female gospel choir, it is a melancholy reflection on life and mortality.

Amid this minimalistic accompaniment, Gelb underscores his great talent in combining jazz, bluegrass, folk and rock. Now and then, he also puts the electric guitar in the foreground, as on “Left Of Center,” but those moments are rare.

The music turns out to be ultimately seductive and melodious. It’s the kind of album that demands to be heard repeatedly. Occasionally it can be confusing, but if it wasn’t, this wouldn’t be a Howe Gelb album. Inevitably as per usual, The Coincidentalist turns out to be a little masterpiece.

Still musically fearless, Gelb has long since made his place among the world of crooners, rock poets and great lords. Along the way, the unexpected has become expected.

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Mike Dostert

Mike Dostert

Luxembourg resident Mike Dostert has written about music for more than two decades, with work appearing in a local newspaper, via his own independent music magazine and at the web sites www.music-brain.com and lux-culture.jimdo.com. He has also worked for 20 years as a DJ and radio host. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mike Dostert
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