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Howe Gelb

Have you considered how the simple snow angel symbolizes a synthesis of earthly delights, and travails, with intimations of heaven?

If you haven't been in town more than 15 minutes, you may not know this sort of insight is habitual with Tucson's Howe Gelb, and he's been making music accordingly for 30 years--solo and with Giant Sand, The Band of Blacky Ranchette and any other aggregation of musicians, children, friends and random noises that happen to be handy.

The inspiration for 'Sno Angel Like You arose from listening to the gospel choirs who were Gelb's fellow performers at the Ottawa Bluesfest in 2003. He recruited one of them, the Voices of Praise, to give golden-road highlights to 14 songs that bridge the gap between Earth and heaven, at least heaven on Earth.

The firm but gentle structure of Arcade Fire's Jeremy Gara's inventive drumming holds the collection together, making older songs here sound fresh as fallen snow, and transporting the newer ones in intriguing directions.

Tracks include Rainer's "The Farm" and "Worried Spirits," as well as Giant Sand heirlooms "Get to Leave" and "Neon Filler," which Gelb's said he always felt needed a choir. New standouts include "Love Knows (No Borders)" and the very groovy "Paradise Here Abouts." There's no religion here, but Gelb keeps things positive. A reprise of 2000's "Chore of Enchantment" ends the collection with upbeat rick-a-tick drumming, and a dreamy, "oooo ooh" choir outtro full of encouragement for heading out into the light.

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