HEAR YE: Giant Sand Chore Of Enchantment

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meAVATAR2.jpgBY JONATHAN VALANIA Giant Sand mainman Howe Gelb has always been one of indie rock’s most beautiful losers. Twenty-some albums into a career that’s brought him all the riches and fame of a Wal-Mart stock boy, Gelb just doesn’t know when to quit. And thank God for it, because Chore of Enchantment (originally released in 2000) remains Giant Sand’s finest hour. Gelb’s music — as intimate as a campfire and as expansive as the desert panoramas it evokes — has always clung to the slippery pole of spontaneity. A fly buzzing around the microphone was always just as integral to the song as the lyrics or the chord changes, an approach that lent itself to moments of astonishing accidental grace and a lot of high-plains drifting. Tinkered over for more than a year by three different producers — eons in Giant Sand years — Chore represents Gelb’s perfection of the majestic desert blues and honky-tonk mysticism he’s been kicking around for 20 years. Like any good horse opera, it’s peopled with the good, the bad and the ugly drifting through the ghost town of memory — a richly rendered series of sonic snapshots, yellowed and curling up at the edges under the brutal Tucson sun. It starts with the Second Coming (“Dusted”) and finishes with a hangover (“Way to End the Day”), and in the end everyone gets what they had comin’.

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