Returns to Valley of Rain
published: 13 /
In our 'Re:View' section, Steve KInrade examines seminal Americana act Giant Sand's latest album 'Returns to Valley of Rain', which is a reworking of their 1985 debut album, 'Valley of Rain'.
It would be egregious to admit that before this album was lashed into my porch by Her Majesty’s finest, that I was au fait with the career of Giant Sands. Fronted by the constant member and creative driving force - Howe Gelb - this Tucson Troubadour has been releasing music for quite a while now. 'Valley of Rain' was first released in 1985, the fruits of labour well spent holed up in a studio, running up a bill of $400.
Fast-forward some thirty odd years, and Gelb and conspirators have revisited the first Giant Sand musical milestone, recording as “live” 'Valley Of Rain' over one and half days, but still running up a tab of four hundred bucks...Now that’s efficiency, given the rate of inflation.
I am, however, somewhat sceptical at the idea of revisiting works of art. In this case, much has been made of this is how the album should have sounded if Fender tubes had been used initially, rather than the available Roland JC120’s...This is interesting, but where should the revisionist line be drawn? Think of your favourite works of art, musical, sculpture, painting - whatever; can you imagine the artist thinking, “Its been some time now, I’m going to re-paint (insert title here)”. Would this detract from the meaning, power, cultural significance of the original? Interesting thought, and perhaps an even more interesting opening conversational gambit to pursue in the Tate Modern members bar...
But was this project worthwhile? Well, I am going to say a resounding yes! If it hasn’t done anything else, it has introduced me to the musical world of Gelb and the revolving door of Giant Sand band membership, and the sheer quality of their output. Loud and quiet, these are songs that are steeped in authenticity. Gelb’s voice is a viscous of Americana truth, probably being due to being soaked over night, every night, in a barrel of cigarette stubs and unfinished bourbon. His voice on 'Artists' is a case in point.
The running order from the 1985 original has changed, which again is an artistic statement in itself. Believe you me, much thought and stressing is taken into account over this. So here we have the tremendous 'Tumble and Tear' opening proceedings, where as on the original was 'Down On Town (Loves No Answer)'. Both great opening tracks, but 'Tumble and Tear'' here edges it, especially with Gelb twice drawling the title; a seductive invitation.
'Returns to Valley of Rain' serves as a productive exercise in the re-evaluation of an artistic process, which is an interesting intellectual distraction for us beard-strokers out here in post hipster land. But it also, to greater effect, highlights the crystal clarity of just how great Giant Sand are, and how important Gelb and the numerous et al have been, and can continue to be.
It's all there. You just have to look.
Have a Listen:-