Even if he wanted to, Howe Gelb couldn’t repeat himself. Just watch him sing sometime; the guy’s got two vocal mics, one distorted, one clean, and he doesn’t make up his mind which one he’ll be singing into until he’s halfway through his line. The same goes for his albums. Some of them are so murky and confusing you’ll lose your way to your own bathroom while they’re playing, while others walk right up and declare themselves. His last solo album, 2006’s ’Sno Angel Like You, was one of the latter. Recorded with a Canadian gospel choir, it practically put its arm around your shoulder and said, “Listen, I want you to know how good life can be if you just hang in there and do what you need to do.” ProVISIONS, on the other hand, refuses to be pinned down, either in style or spirit. “Stranded Pearl” opens things with a mid-tempo country shuffle and a lyric that seems unable to make up its mind whether love is bringing you down, is all that matters or is both. Ambivalence rears its head again on “Out There,” its trudging beat tugging one way, Gelb’s hopeful croon the other. Persistently country-tinged in the first half, the music bounces pinball-like in the second, with late-night piano balladry, overcaffeinated tango and shattered guitar noise. ProVISIONS tells a less reassuring truth than ’Sno Angel Like You, but one that’s just as true; you just never know. []

—Bill Meyer