Despite its sound -- a drifting, slow-motion sandstorm of darkly psilocybined desert-rock gently whipping against the totem-poled baritone of head Giant Howe Gelb -- and Gelb’s propensity to meander within the insular, sundrunk sprawl of his own sleep-drawled headspace, proVISIONS
is a remarkably focused and intense record. Gelb’s deep, nicotined voice slithers and croons throughout widescreened cineramas of Ennio Morricone-style acoustic soundscapes.
After twenty years of (often beautifully) wandering through a myriad of bass-thump backroads of nightshade Americana, off-kilter country-soul and doom-laden gospel, Gelb has welded his experience into a tightly honed, tar-black desperate drive into a desolate twilight that glows with an eerie beauty. At one point, deep within the stark “Spiral,” the 52-year-old Gelb whispers, “Don’t wanna live forever/ But another generation would be nice.” He sings with a quiet reserve that is truly heartbreaking, a bleakly radiant mood that stretches across the disc’s entirety.
The album features duets with Isobel Campbell and Neko Case and boasts a cover of PJ Harvey’s “The Desperate Kingdom of Love” that not only equals Polly Jean’s original but also overwhelms it with a blurred reverie of late-night despair, making it become a hymnlike search for hope amid the sonic ambience of a ghostly, pale desert-night ambience. Not only does proVISIONS
stand as a high-water mark of 2008 music and of Gelb’s career, but it is also the sun-bloodied bar that all other bands of the genre (including names as disparate as Calexico, Neko Case and the Soulsavers) must now aspire to.
If the world were a just place, Giant Sand might be a giant band. Main Giant Sand man Howe Gelb has been leading the project in crafting lush, atmoshpheric Americana for years (in addition to doing quality solo work, including 2006's 'Sno Angel Like You). Folks who have joined Gelb in Giant Sand in the past have gone on to play in bands like Calexico and Friends of Dean Martinez. On proVISIONS, Gelb is joined by a bunch of Danish musicians, as he recorded the album partly in Denmark and partly in his native Tucson, Arizona. Also making guest apperances on the album are big names such as M. Ward, Neko Case, and Isobell Campbell. Yep Roc says proVISIONS consists of "secrets whispered over desert winds."