Giant Sand, originally The Giant Sandworms, is an American rock band, based in Tucson, Arizona (although Los Angeles, California was its home for many years). Overseen by singer-songwriter-guitarist-pianist Howe Gelb, its membership has shifted over the years—at times with each album—though for a long while the drum and bass duties were handled by John Convertino and Joey Burns, who went on to form Calexico. Other members have included keyboardist Chris Cacavas (of Green on Red), bassist Paula Jean Brown (a late-period Go-Go, and married to Gelb at the time) and drummer Tom Larkins (afterward a Jonathan Richman sideman). Guest artists—though it is hard to tell at times where the band leaves off and the guests begin—have included Victoria Williams, Neko Case, Juliana Hatfield, PJ Harvey, Vic Chesnutt, Steve Wynn, Vicki Peterson, Rainer Ptacek, nearly all of Poi Dog Pondering and regular cameos from Gelb and Brown's daughter, Indiosa Patsy Jean.
Side projects, which are more extensions of than alternatives to Giant Sand, include the country-oriented The Band of Blacky Ranchette, OP8 (a collaboration with Lisa Germano), and Gelb's solo albums. Guests on Blacky Ranchette albums have included Lucinda Williams, Kurt Wagner (of Lambchop), Neko Case and Chan Marshall. Arizona Amp And Alternator (AAAA) is Gelb's newest project with a self-titled album. The homepage states that AAAA has no members. Just as the personnel shifts, so does the sound of the records, which—like those of one of Gelb's obvious models, Neil Young—range from barely audible acoustic fingerpicking to quasi-metallic electric guitar skronk, sometimes within the same song. There are also bursts of Thelonious Monk-inspired piano jazz (from Gelb), played with the ragged approach that characterizes most all of this work.