Howe Gelb and a Band of Gypsies – Alegrías

Giant Sand frontman and solo artist Howe Gelb is now into his fifth decade of making music but his sense of creativity is far from drying up.

Arguably his output is as fresh now as when he started recording punk songs on a four track in the late 1970s. His global view of music helps and on his latest release he has spent the last two years visiting Spain to merge his unique brand of Americana with the region’s gypsy music.

As with Neonfiller Top 100 album Sno’ Angel Like you, in which he teamed up with Canada’s Voices of Praise gospel choir, the genre crossing on Alegrias works beautifully.

Respect is key to Gelb’s work with musicians and as with Voices of Praise he clearly bows down to the skill of the gypsy musicians he has assembled, giving them time and space to  weave their music around his desert ballads of hanging judges and gunfighters to create something wholly unique.

This is particularly the case with the guitarist Raimondo Amador, whose work brings an added touch of class to this album.

Among our highlights are ‘Notoriety’ and ‘Blood Orange’, both tracks featuring superb backing vocals from Prin La La and Lonna Kelley respectively.

Another is the signature track ‘Cowboy Boots on Cobble Stones’, which you can imagine Gleb writing as he walks around Cordoba, where the bulk of the album was recorded.

While Gelb is rooted in the Americana sections of record stores, it is not a tag he particularly likes, especially as he has a far broader focus on music. It is little wonder that on his website he simple refers to himself as ‘from Earth’. We look forward to his next musical destination with interest.

8.5/10

by Joe Lepper

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