Sunday, November 10
It’s a different set every time with Gunn, though the focus at the moment is most definitely his latest album and the more recent EP (in truth, the EP is a recorded version of the album’s songs performed solo acoustic; more a take-home flavour of what you might get at a show).
It was an interesting mood he conjured at MOON on Sunday night, the fifth show in as many days in five different cities across the length of the country. He took his time to have a sip of wine and to beckon the background-punters to sit right at the front of the stage. It was a sitting-room feel, so perfect for Gunn’s take on Americana-ranging folk music.
The focus across the last three albums from Gunn has been the lyrics; the storytelling in that capacity. He’s a gifted storyteller with the guitar (think Richard Thompson). It’s effortless. It flows through him – he is the bridge from John Fahey to Kurt Vile and wider out alongside contemporaries William Tyler and Ryley Walker. But on recent albums his great development has been as a songwriter (again perhaps Thompson is the role-model). And so with his own songs (Vagabond) he tells intricately crafted prose-poems that are emotionally insular but never standing off and away. These are songs that draw you in and this performance was about pin-drop mood-creation; the audience dangling there on the loose circles of guitar motifs, leaning in to hear the lyrics, to feel the flow of each song.
As Americana-placed as Gunn is, one of his heroes (and friends) is the British guitarist and singer/songwriter Michael Chapman. (Gunn produced Chapman’s lovely 2019 record, True North.
And his version tonight of Among The Trees, a regular live-favourite (from Chapman’s 1970 masterpiece, Window) was not just one of the highlights of the set but it speaks to both the importance of the connection with other musicians, something that fuels Gunn’s work and world, but also to his abilities to interpret – to pay tribute and to make songs feel as if they were the pieces he might have written. There’s also the consideration too, when you hear such a great rendition of a “lost classic” that Gunn is moving forward and back all at once, his playing effortlessly encompassing a broad sweep of styles, modes, moods and eras.
It’s a treat to watch a master of his craft so effortlessly transport himself and his thoughtfully-listening audience.
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