Following Howe Gelb's various incarnations of Giant Sand is one of the joyous trips of listening to music. Giant Sand is like visiting an old friend that is constantly remolding his home and you never know what you are going to get. You know the basic foundation and walls are always there but what has he done to change to vision of the place? I have followed them from the beginning originally buying their first simply because they were from my town Tucson, but once discovered you never want to lose them. The various incarnations of Giant Sand are always pleasing and the music and writing always superb. This time around Gelb brings 12 to the group (thus Giant, Giant Sand), the six regulars from Denmark and six from Tucson (including Gabriel Sullivan in the Tucson group who is one of the best singer/songwriters in America today! Track #9) With 12 musicians vying together you would expect a bigger, louder sound but what you get is a most intimate sound that is full of bass lines, horns and twangy guitars as if you are listening to them in a small cantina in the heart of Tucson that is lit with pepper lights, beer signs and the hope of every patron that moves to the music. This is a country opera in design weaving together songs of a man who wanders looking for his own Xanadu that perhaps lives only in his head. A trip that many of us have pursued on that bus with no destination in its view. Howie's voice is like that man you sit next to at the bar nursing a tequila sitting in the sweat stains of his cerveza. The stories he tells are mostly for his own listening but you are welcome to sit in as he takes you to places with names like Love, Hope, Despair, Wonder,Pain, Heartbreak and Redemption. His voice is full of grit, weariness and strength. Howe's voice is what you would imagine Tommy Lee Jones sounding like if he was on the porch watching the Arizona sun set as he sings the depths of his soul. But many voices are heard in this opera and all are perfect fits to the song they sing. Hard to single out one or two songs as the best, I found Wind Blown Waltz, Lost Love, The Sun Belongs to You and We Don't Play Tonight especially good but then I could also name four others that are just as good. It is rare for us to find a album of such worth and mystery as Tucson. Full of fat sounds, intimate moments, brash attitude, simplicity and the humanity that searches in us all!