Fourth album in 20 years from Giant Sand's twisted country cousin

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This Month In Americana

Thirteen years on from TBOBR’s last record (Sage Advice), leader Howe Gelb continues to spike “new fashion western with that old fashion hardcore”. An outlet for the country pickings denied them within Giant Sand, Gelb and guitarist Rainer Ptacek formed Blacky Ranchette in 1983, along with drummer Tom Larkin. With the latter succumbing to brain cancer in ’97, TBOBR seemed to have faded too. Gelb, however, had other plans. Still Lookin’ Good To Me was recorded ad hoc in cars, studios, hallways. Yet despite boasting cameos from Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, Neko Case, Calexico, Jason (Grandaddy) Lytle, M. Ward, Richard Buckner and Chan (Cat Power) Marshall, this is quintessential Howe: loose, slippery, surreal, invariably beautiful. His philosophy?as gleaned from Gram Parsons?is to “make music you crave but isn’t available in the shops”, and this is another self-stitched patchwork of thrift-store sorts. Mumbling opener “The Train Singer’s Song” is the tale of a man reborn after digging himself a shallow grave beneath the railroad ties, set to minimal percussion and sleepy guitar, while “Getting It Made” compounds Neko Case’s reputation as the best country warbler since Patsy Cline, and “The Muss Of Paradise” is hilarious for the interruption of a Tennessee State Trooper, urging a guitar-toting Gelb and behind-the-wheel Kurt Wagner to move on. Joyful stuff, and lyrical proof that Gelb continues tripping way off the beatnik path.