Thursday, February 4, 2010
Giant Sand - Uneven Light of Day (Storm,1987)
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 Tucson, Arizona in the mid-'70s.
With Storm, the Giant Sand story begins to get interesting. The band's third album features a marked leap forward in production and sound detailing from their first two records. Neil Harry's pedal steel gels wonderfully with the work of Paula Jean Brown (aka Mrs. Howe Gelb), who takes over bass duties and adds immeasurably to the tone colors of the compositions with her singing, and drummer Tom Larkins -- though he would depart following the recording, and had become reasonably comfortable with the shifting tempos of main-man Gelb's composing. For his part, it is here that Gelb finally starts to widen his songwriting, beginning the rambling, ambling lyrical spew and loose-but-still-moving-together chord sequences that make Giant Sand a band that is loved so intensely by its devotees. Though the contribution of producer/engineer Eric Westfall -- who had worked on all of the band's records up to this point -- shouldn't be underestimated, it is Gelb's leaps as a composer that make the disc come alive. The opening "Uneven Light of Day," the title cut, the honky-tonk raver "Three 6ixes," "Town With Little or No Pity," and "Was Is a Big Word" are all first-class. Even the cover of the Band's "The Weight" is effective, demonstrating Howe's unflinching eye in the face of the classics and sung with interpretive passion, especially when compared with the desultory cover versions on the preceding Ballad of a Thin Line Man. Storm is the first step in a quickly ascending tier of masterful Giant Sand releases.