New York's singer-songwriter Steve Gunn, formerly of
GHQ, launched a solo career with
Steve Gunn I (2007),
Steve Gunn II (2008),
Sundowner (Digitalis, 2008),
Boerum Palace (2009).
Gunn then partnered with drummer John Truscinski for Sand City (2010)
and Ocean Parkway (2012).
From the beginning
Time Off (Paradise of Bachelors, 2013),
featuring Truscinski and bassist Justin Tripp,
shows the dichotomy between the (creative) guitarist and the (mediocre) singer,
with Water Wheel introducing both the magical guitarwork that
later propels the nine-minute instrumental Trailways Ramble,
and the monotonous vocals that ruin the otherwise lively blues-rock
No surprise then that the best parts of the eight-minute Lurker are
the instrumental overture and the instrumental coda.
Thankfully the vocals don't interfere much with the progression
that turns the quiet country shuffle Old Strange into
a gypsy dance (Helena Espvall on cello).
Backed by a seven-piece band, Gunn's transcontinental guitar style is even
more in command of
Way Out Weather (Paradise of Bachelors, 2014), but the vocals remain
The sleepy languor of Way Out Weather is reminiscent of
David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name but without Crosby's drifting wail, and
Atmosphere, without the vocals, would be a solemn metaphysical journey
worthy of John Fahey.
If the country-pop of Wildwood sounds like a sell-out
Milly's Garden displays both melody and rougher edges,
and the darker, faster and harsher Drifter sprints to the other
end of the spectrum.
Best is the grand finale of
Tommy's Congo, a
Nick Cave-ian sermon
with African-style bassline and an insistent raga-psychedelic guitar
Black Dirt Oak,
a supergroup with Steve Gunn, Nathan Bowles (Pelt), Jimy SeiTang, Justin Tripp, Margot Bianca, Dave Shuford and Wednesday Knudsen,
crafted one of the most creative albums of roots-rock of the age,
Wawayanda Patent (MIE, 2014).
The songs are framed between two instrumentals, the
slow-motion oneiric Real Crow, halfway
between Taj Mahal's blues and an Indian raga,
and the six-minute free-form atonal jam Crowning The Bard.
In between they serve the
ghostly jazz-tronica of Demon Directive,
the syncopated danceable exotica of The Drowned Lands
and the eight-minute trance-chant From The Jaguar Priest.
Cantos de Lisboa (2014) was a collaboration with veteran jazz
guitarist Mike Cooper.
Melodies for a Savage Fix (2014) was a collaboration with
Pelt's guitarist Mike Gangloff,
that yielded the eleven-minute First of Spring
and the 17-minute Topeka AM.
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