Giant Sand leader Howe Gelb returns March 21 with “Sno Angel Like You,” an album he dubs his “most positive” effort yet. The Thrill Jockey set finds Gelb backed by a gospel choir on each of the 14 tracks.
The artist tells Billboard.com he “stumbled” into making the record after witnessing his first gospel concert in a church during the Ottawa Bluesfest. “I couldn’t shake it — I just felt the need to go back into the church after it was all over,” he says. “I went to the church director and asked if it was okay to use a gospel choir — any gospel choir — in non-religious music. He just told me to ‘keep it positive.'”
The last choir Gelb saw in the church, the Voices Of Praise Gospel Choir, was later recruited to appear on the album. The set also features drumming from Jeremy Gara, who is now the touring drummer for the Arcade Fire.
“Jeremy helped me return to what I started out with first, which was serious melody and just some drums,” he says. “He was seriously talented. We were able to cut 85% of the record in one go.”
Bytowners members Dave Draves and Jim Bryson, bassist Nick Augustine and slide guitarist Fred Guignion round out the contributors. Three old Giant Sand songs made their way onto the effort, as did three Rainer Ptacek compositions.
Gelb says it will be difficult to tour in support of the set, considering the traveling expenses for himself, the eight-person choir and a four- to five-piece backing band. He is currently slated to perform in Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom in May and is planning New York and Los Angeles dates as well, though it’s yet to be seen if he’ll bring the whole entourage.
Meanwhile, Gelb recently logged studio time with M. Ward on a track intended for the latter’s next studio album, and is also due to appear on the next Thrill Jockey album from Austrian electronic/rock act Radian.