True, a few songs sound like Morphine outtakes or leftovers, albeit very good ones: "Justine" has that lean, snaking, Beat-jazz-flavored groove, and "The Phone" is a late-night phone-sex invocation, all purring multiple Sandman voices and distant, cyclic percussion beats. But then there's "Some Other Dog," a slice of shuffling, white-hot Chicago blues, with searing, Little Walter-style harmonica. And what about the unabashedly romantic Tex-Mex ballad "Hombre" (sung partly in Spanish), where the man chases the ghosts of old-school crooners Roy Orbison and Marty Robbins?
The unifying qualities of Sandbox are Sandman's clear, honest singing and the slightly rough-hewn joie de vivre in the instrumental performances. By and large, Sandbox is not a collection for devotees only -- anyone who values both "roots" and restless creativity (Tom Waits, say) ought to save up for this one.