For various reasons, nearly five years had elapsed between the release
of "Glum" and that of "Chore of enchantment",
the last two official Giant Sand studio
albums. The interval had only been shortened by the release of two live
albums, one official bootleg and the OP8 album (let's skip both Calexico albums and the tribute compilation
to Rainer, "The inner
flame"). For Giant Sand, this
can be considered as very little compensation ! But as, apparently, beside
record company problems, this period covered a "writer's block"
for Howe Gelb following the death of
his friend Rainer , it's
not too bad.
Let's start with the happy outcome of the release of "Chore of enchantment", dropped by V2 during summer 1999, which came out finally during winter 2000 (on Thrill Jockey and Loose). An essential album in the Giant Sand discography, that every reader of these lines should know !
Right after, in april 2000, Giant Sand releases the second instalment of its official bootleg series, "The rock opera years". A proper 14 track album, which notably includes songs from "Chore" in the version dating from the first sessions for the album, in Tucson with John Parish, but which also contains previously unreleased tracks, like the excellent cover of Neil Young's "Music arcade" (from the "Broken arrow" album), recorded in '95 with Evan Dando and Victoria Williams. Many rate this album as well as "Chore of enchantment". It is availble through giantsand.com.
No releases during the summer, but Howe, along with his widow Patti, worked for the rerelease of Rainer's albums on Glitterhouse, and on the release of two posthumous albums, the studio-recorded "Alpaca lips" and the masterpiece that is the solo "Live at the performance center". And on his micro-label, Ow Om, he made us discover the first M. Ward album, "Duet for guitars # 2", before it was released in Europe on 62 TV / Les disques Mange-Tout.
In the autumn, still on Ow
Om and still available on mail-order from giantsand.com,
Howe releases "Upside (down)
home 2000", his second non-official solo album, the first being
a CD-R he had sold on a US tour a few years back, called "Upside
The year 2001 started at the same pace. In Europe, Loose
and Glitterhouse released
"Hisser", the second official solo Howe
album, released by V2 during
summer 1998 in the USA (see Vivonzeureux! n°
5), and then with three extra tracks in 1999, in Scandinavia and in
the Benelux countries.
To close this recording chapter, let's make a note that a piano album (Howe plays piano very well...) is scheduled on Thrill Jockey for an august release ("Lull, some piano"), and that the "Remain distorted" we were talking about is taken from "Unsunglum", the third official bootleg, which has been on the brink of release on Ow Om for months now (and I'm not even telling you about the excellent Sandman series !).
But music means records, but it also means concerts, and the fans
have been well served in this particular area, since the tours follow each
other practically non stop since the end of 1999, on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the autumn, first, my heart missed a little beat when Le Monde (one of France's major daily newspaper)
dedicated a full page to Giant Sand and
the Tucson scene (the same had happened a few years back with Alan McGee
and Creation. "Le Monde" is not as highbrow as it used
to be, but it's always a pleasure to see an institutiàon "celebrate"
someone you support...)
As a way to keep this good thing going, Giant Sand was invited by P.J. Harvey in februray 2001 to guest on her european tour (in the spring, it is P.J. Harvey, herself opening for U2 in the States, who will make arrangements to join Giant Sand on stage in Tucson, for a memorable concert in support of KXCI). Howe had announced beforehand, and it didn't surpise anyone such is the heavy schedule of Calexico, that Giant Sand was now made up of himself and anyone who could participate at a given moment. Which hinted that Joey et John were not permanent members of the band anymore. Which was confirmed during the tour, which started with Joey et John, rthen replaced by Jim Fairchild and Aaron Burtch of Grandaddy, and Saholy and Laureline of Candie Prune.
So, that was a very full 12 month period for Howe Gelb, which proves if needed that he breathes and lives his art constantly. Which might explain why he does it with so little self conscience that you might forget sometime that you deal with an accomplished artist. And it is probably this absence of artistic "pose", which helps him to remain warm and accessible and encourages him to make his creations available by every possible way.
Pol Dodu, may 2001, revised august 2001.
je veux retourner à la maison!