Few artists’ creative wellspring is more wedded to their personal geography than Gabriel Sullivan’s is. The singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer and label and studio owner was (until very recently) a life-long denizen of Tucson, Arizona, which places him on the northern end of the great Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran is the lushest desert on the planet, but like all deserts, it’s intensely hot, dry, dusty and full of both staggering beauty and profoundly treacherous landscapes and wildlife to steer clear of. Whatever survives the daily inferno is reborn every day anew, and Sullivan’s music embodies the beauty, danger and dramatically shifting atmospherics all around him; yea, you better believe it’s desert rock.
Black Crow is Gabriel Sullivan’s fifth solo album to date, and comes during an incredibly prolific several years for him. In recent years Sullivan has recorded three albums and toured extensively (especially in Europe) co-fronting the Tucson-based band XIXA; recorded and toured with Tucson’s long-running, legendary Giant Sand; built out and recorded numerous acts at his Dust & Stone Studio (including The Lost Brothers, Billy Sedlmayr, Imarhan, Giant Sand, as well as the XIXA albums); wrote and recorded a song a day for an entire year; and has been involved in numerous other recording projects, collaborations, one-offs, tours and gigs.
The ten tracks on the new album take their cue from the title track, a Townes Van Zandt soul scorcher that seems to appear from a hole in the void, pull you into it’s dark heart, spin you around in a storm of squawling guitars, and push you out again riding the downslope of Sullivan’s magnificent baritone voice. The other nine tracks – all Sullivan originals – are all cut from similar cloth: forlorn, clear-eyed tales brought to life in with gnarly knots of guitars, atmospheric synths and sound design and stately rhythms. Sullivan says: ‘This is a record exploring minimalism and subtlety. Large, vast imagery in subtle sounds. It is all in minor keys. It is me continuing my journey in unearthing the dark and mystic qualities that my desert has to offer. Lonesome and dry. Crude and raw. Sharp and unforgiving.’
Black Crow was produced, engineered and mixed by Sullivan in his studio, and was recorded largely live with minimal overdubs. His musical compadres are some of Tucson’s finest: Winston Watson on drums; Ryan Alfred on electric guitar, synths and sound design; Thøger T. Lund on bass and backing vocals; while Sullivan does vocals, nylon stringed guitar, electric guitar, synths, sound design and percussion. It will be released September 27 on his own Dust & Stone Records label.