Vortexas - Howe Gelb

from the album The Coincidentalist (2013)

Well, welcome to the desert
It's becoming increasingly more expensive
It used to be much cheaper
To find a love and to keep her
To play guitar and reiterate
To embrace the heat or just hibernate
A little tin foil on the windows works just great

What I dig about Howe Gelb is that he reminds me of a great painter.  His music creates soundscapes of the desert southwest in-and-around his Tucson, Arizona home.  He is a master of establishing space in his music and framing it with well crafted instrument and tone choices.  From there he weaves in lyrics that ring with honesty and visual imagery.

The song Vortexas is a beautiful representation of his art.  On this track, the band plays with a looseness and warmth.  Brushes lightly working the drum kit.  Electric piano delicately navigating the chord changes.  Weathered vocals delivered like a soft conversation.  It creates and maintains a feel that is distinctly Howe Gelb.

He adds color to his intimate portrait with the addition of bells, smooth backing vocals, and a tasty guitar that enters in the closing moments.  And then there are the vocals.  Sometimes spoken, sometimes soaring with a Bowie-like grace, each variation helps envelope you in the song's atmosphere.  It is all quite beautiful.

The Coincidentalist is about the fortieth album released by Howe Gelb in his nearly thirty year career.  Few artists are so prolific for so long.  Kind of like Pablo Picasso, who when asked how he maintained his massive output for decade after decade said "I was born with the sun in my belly."  In the case of Howe Gelb, it is the Arizona sun.

Click Here to listen to Vortexas on SoundCloud.

Click Here to watch Vortexas performed live at the Pickathon Festival in Happy Valley, Oregon.

Click Here to listen to a great interview with Howe Gelb on Grant Lee Philips' Shortwave program.