Giant Sand

Cover Magazine

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Cover Magazine is like a primer on long-running Arizona institution Giant Sand: a mix of highbrow and lowbrow influences rendered with exquisite musicianship, all saturated by the hushed, plainspoken vocals of Howe Gelb. Over the years, this revolving cast of characters has been compared to everyone from Bob Dylan to Neil Young (with or without Crazy Horse), but the strongest resemblance on this live outing is to the Band (Gelb even sounds a bit like Robbie Robertson) -- assuming the Band would have covered songs like "Iron Man" and "The Beat Goes On" (twice). Gelb and company aren't making fun of the material, however; the Sabbath standard is performed in a jazzy manner with piano, conga drums, and mournful trumpet, and there's nothing particularly jokey about it. If anything, the unusual rendition brings out the pathos in the lyrics. Other notable covers include "Johnny Hit and Run Pauline," a duet with PJ Harvey (her own "Plants and Rags" also gets the run-through), and a blistering version of Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand." Further guest appearances: Neko Case and Kelly Hogan provide backing vocals on a medley of "Wayfaring Stranger/Fly Me to the Moon" and Grandaddy's Jim Fairchild helps out on Gelb's own "Blue Marble Girl."

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