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Rarely has a format seemed as fitting as “country rock opera” does for Giant Giant Sand’s meshing of folk/jazz/rock/blues/country with offhand theatricality. Based on the group’s most dependable obsession/location — the Southwest — Tucson is a dip into the rabbit hole of lead singer/composer Howe Gelb’s psyche. Those who order the physical CD receive a cryptic clue: a postcard that uses midcentury graphics to proclaim “Greetings from Tucson, Arizona” over a drawing of a traveler pointing at a bike with a flat tire.

GGS’ collage of barstool confessionals, delectable acoustic/electric textures, and a solemnity so depth-y it’s funny (in the way of Sam Shepard’s plays) is no mean feat. But don’t ask me what’s going on — how do you decipher swirls of beautifully appointed guitars and whispered, often snail’s-pace vocals? Tucson is a vehicle for desert wanderings; whether real or metaphorical, perhaps after cooking up some mushrooms. When you least expect it, cactus flowers and prairie dogs will appear, then morph into some of Gelb’s sweetest, most-moving-to-date melodies (“Plane of Existence,” “Love Comes Over You,” “Undiscovered Country”).

Out on 11/26, the deluxe edition features new mixes and precedes Fire’s reissue of Gelb’s solo catalog.

  • Album: Tucson
  • Artist: Giant Giant Sand
  • Label: Fire Records
  • Songs: (1) Wind Blown Waltz (2) Forever and a Day (3) Detained (4) Lost Love (5) Plane of Existence (6) Undiscovered Country (7) Love Comes Over You (8) Thing Like That (9) The Sun Belongs to You (10) We Don't Play Tonight (11) Ready or Not (12) Mostly Wrong (13) Hard Morning in a Soft Blur (14) Recovery Mission (15) Slag Heap (16) Not the End of the World (17) Carinito (18) Out of the Blue (19) New River
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