Greetings, Earthlings! Gee whiz, is there a new Howe Gelb record already? It seems like only 10 weeks ago we were talking about Giant Sand here at B the D. Alegrias (out May 10) is, in its way, a follow-up to Gelb’s 2006 solo outing Sno Angel Like You, for which he teamed up with Ottawa’s Voices of Praise choir (as well as guitarist Jim Bryson and Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara). This time, rather than a full on gospel choir, Gelb is working with a full on flamenco band, A Band of Gypsies, featuring the hot guitar licks of Raimundo Amador.
In the liner notes to his 2003 album The Listener, Howe Gelb explained his technique:
First, a lack of proficiency on any instrument of choice;
This would allow a more unique style to emerge from the playing.
Second, a definite omission of melody in the material;
This made it even easier to qualify to such status.
And thirdly, a demeanor of abandon;
A reckless execution mixed with an offhanded delivery with too much wordplay.
I don’t suppose it’s that great a coincidence that I was reading a novel about a Spaniard named Amador when I first heard this album. Amador translates to lover, so you can imagine the literary value in such a name. Leonardo’s Bicycle, by Paco Ignacio Taibo II follows José Daniel Fierro, a Mexican writer of detective stories, as he struggles to write about his grandfather, Angel del Hierro, an infamous anarchist superhero in 1920s Barcelona. But Fierro is drawn more to Antonio “the Flea” Amador, a journalist of his grandfather’s time who fights injustice with words and the truth rather than pistols and dynamite. A lot more happens besides in a novel that includes women’s basketball, black market organs, a running appreciation of Carlos Santana and some of the finest writing about the act of writing to appear in any novel, Mexican or otherwise.
I would go back to the neon-lit avenue, hobbling along, the only pedestrian in a city full of cars, a firm believer in walking, in stubborn pedestrianism, a fervent admirer of miracles of will. Faithful to that adolescent musing that whenever you jumped into the void you would invariably end up somewhere, usually better than where you had started off from.
mp3: “4 Door Maverick” by Howe Gelb & A Band of Gypsies
bonus mp3: Paco Ignacio Taibo II interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel for CBC’s Writers & Company
Emmet Matheson is not Latin America’s foremost detective writer, but he still puts in a good word for all of mankind on his blog A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom