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Jerry Granelli: Sandhills Reunion

Dan McClenaghan By

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Like rocker Bruce Springsten with his Nebraska or author Annie Proulx with her two volumes of Wyoming stories, Jerry Granelli's Sandhill Reunion —where his band accompanies Rinde Eckert's words—evokes the American experience in the prairie heartland, placing poetic viginettes of small experience under a powerful microscope on a set of of jazz-backed prose poems that explore Billy the Kid, a bygone strip joint, a kiss blown at a wedding from the violinist to a small boy in a "Little White Suit," and roughneck workers constructing a bridge over a "River of Glass," dangling "like a grey spider" on the end of a taunt rope to inspect the rivets and bolts.

The music, composed variously by members of the band, swells with swirling reeds—clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone sax, cello/bass/guitar, and Granelli's drums. It blows moody and cool around Eckert's words like a prairie fog; or chugs into a reedy bump and grind on "Just Angels," a tale that takes us into a bygone "Godforsaken den of inequity."

Sandhill Reunion is unlike anything I've heard, but the mood it draws—going back more than thirty years—is the same as that of Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding or the Band's The Band : odd, folksy, sometimes surreal tales, very American in nature, told with a simple eloquence entwined with superb yet understated musicianship. An odd, poignant masterpiece.

Track Listing: Like a Ghost in the Grass; Our Particular Tragedy; 20 Questions for an Outlaw; Nolan; River of Glass; Your Voice; Just Angels; Last Light; Little White Suit; Never to See You; Smart Women; Spun Like a Spur

Personnel: Rinde Eckert (voice), Francois Houle (clarinet), Jeff Reilly (bass clarinet), David Mott (baritone Saxophone), Christoph Both (cello), Christian Kogel (electric and acoustic guitars), J. Anthony Granelli (bass, lap steel guitar), Jerry Granelli (drums, samples)

Title: Sandhills Reunion | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings

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