Howe Gelb

April 14, Glad Cafe, Glasgow

April 16, Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

Despite the appearance of refined Southern gent, Howe Gelb is a shape-shifter, a chameleon with ever-changing roles, personae and sounds.

Either in the live setting or on record, you never quite know what you are going to get. Gelb, as he admits himself, is "allergic" to paperwork, whether it's contracts or set-lists.

If the musician a touch elusive for some, such slipperiness and willingness to adapt is central to his creative longevity.

Something of a dustbowl Leonard Cohen in terms of his vocals and love of unshowy wordplay, all that's assured from Gelb is something of quality, something that will enrich. Throughout four decades of making music, he's collaborated with Mariachi bands, Gospel choirs and a troop of flamenco-playing Gypsies, all while assuming a multiplicity of guises from late-night crooner to ear-splitting rocker and jazz improvisationalist.

Whether its with Giant Sand, Gelb's longest-running outfit, or his extensive side-projects and solo work, taking chances and going with the flow are principles he's consistently cleaved to.

That said, even Giant Sand weren't really a band, but an ever-shifting cast of musicians centered around Gelb. Even the band's most consistent members weren't around too long.

When a flood destroyed Gelb's home in Pennsylvania in the late 1970s, he moved to Tuscon, Arizona. There he began the first incarnation of Giant Sand with bosom pal Rainer Ptacek, a guitarist highly regarded for his nimble fingers.

Ptacek died of a brain tumour in 1997, just as Giant Sand's psychedelia-smeared roots-rock was finally getting the notice it deserved and turning them from cult concern to the key band of the alt country scene highly popular at the millennium's turn.

Soon after other long-term members John Convertino and Joey Burns went off to form the influential Calexico, while Gelb continued to collaborate, take on new members and help jump-start the careers of the likes of Grandaddy and M.Ward.

Talking to US broadcaster Adam Weissler about his 2013 album The Coincidentalist, Gelb attempted to explain his approach, saying: “I tended to lean on a method of happenstance from the get-go. When I first heard my recorded ideas, I didn't really care [about them]. I became confident in the art of improvisation, so when anything happens, I'm ready for it.”

That attitude hasn't changed in recent years, with Gelb collaborating with a vast breadth of musicians including Scot KT Tunstall (Gelb produced her Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon album), Viennese experimental trio Radian and Lonna Kelley, the rising singer who contributed to 2017's jazzy Further Standards, a second volume of late night piano numbers.

He's since retreated further from the public eye, giving his last interview to date in 2016 when he said he was leaving the job of keeping his social media updated to his son and daughter. He would spend the extra time writing songs, he said.

Gathered, his 24th solo studio album, was released last month and captures some of his most prevalent styles and lyrical wit. He's joined on it by collaborators from all over the world, including French actress Anna Karina, Danish singer Kira Skov and Talula Gelb, his daughter by his first wife, Go-Gos bassist Paula Brown.

What could be in store for these gigs? Just weeks ago, the 62-year-old was performing on stage with The Colourist, an unconventional chamber orchestra who radically rework the songs of noted artists. He's certainly at an age where he doesn't have to please anyone.

Six years ago, he joked to Weissler: “Once you get the grey hair, people seem to think you know what you're doing.”