It has been over two decades since the one and only Howe Gelb has graced our fine city. I have had the pleasure of seeing him perform and can guarantee an unforgettable night when he plays this Saturday at The Black Cat for a special seated show as an acoustic trio on the Mainstage, with former Teenbeat recording artist Tracey Shedd opening. My first experience was blindly walking into the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, where Howe was leading the careening trio version of Giant Sand, backed by the rhythm section that would one day be Calexico. They took me on a two and a half hour journey through every emotion imaginable, as Howe would toss off two minute bursts of songwriting genius and dark humor, followed by epic jams and wild excursions, before suddenly snapping to once again, only to teeter on the rails minutes later. I was transfixed. You couldn’t look away. You couldn’t anticipate what was around the next musical corner. You couldn’t resist his devilish charm. You just gave in and went along for the amazing ride.
Since then he has continued to blaze a maverick path through the musical landscape. Assembling a Giant Giant Sand, rollicking with gospel choirs, trading flamenco licks with Spain’s finest, looking straight into the Tucson sun and packing venues all across Europe.
On the heels of a full reissue campaign of his Giant Sand records, Fire Records has captured a lot of those highlights, putting together all of Howe’s solo records in one conveniently fancy box, with 8 albums spanning every period of his career, including the 5 star classic “Sno Angel Like You,” along with liner notes written by the man himself and an introduction from Sylvie Simmons (who just wrote that amazing Leonard Cohen book!) Entitled “Little Sand Box,” it releases next week, but you can get one at the show on Saturday (or win one now!) Long a traveling partner and influence on everyone from PJ Harvey to Evan Dando, just in this past year he has produced KT Tunstall, John Doe, and recorded an album with Steve Shelley and M Ward, among others.
He is simply not to be missed.
Here is one of my favorite Howe tunes of all-time.
And the one I never get tired of:
As Howe has often been referred to as the “Godfather of Alt Country,” the person who leaves the best quote from The Godfather in the comments section will win two tickets to Saturday’s show at The Black Cat, along with a “Little Sand Box” box set. Give it your best Brando/Pacino/Duvall or smooth Jimmy Caan impression below.