You might know Steve Gunn as a hired gun, one of the guitar layers in Kurt Vile’s sound, or perhaps you know his Gunn-Truscinski Duo (drummer John Truscinski is present on this album too) or his experimental noise outfit, GHQ. So, several strings to his bow and for the most part it’s not even about taking a bow to this strings here, as the acoustic guitar rolls and weaves and charts a course through malleted tom-toms and tunnels deep into songs, sometimes reminding of what James Blackshaw might sound like, slightly lightened, with a band. Hints too, overtly of Bert Jansch and Martin Simpson and John Fahey – also, surely, the Peter Walker of Rainy Day Raga.
But there’s also this tripped-out hippie vibe to these songs and near-songs, John Martyn mumbling over Tim Buckley songs if backed by The Grateful Dead; by that I mean it’s only ever close to shambolic, to falling over, as the guitar feels like it’s always unfolding but never unravelling.
The closing instrumental, Trailways Ramble, feels like the beginning of something new – Gunn’s had his Time Off (as it were/as this is) and he’s now taking you off somewhere else. That’s what’s most exciting about this album – it’s a moment in time, caught on tape. It feels like it will never date. Just as believable would be a story that this was some unearthed relic, some long lost wonder from the 1960s/70s. Just as believable: this isn’t even an album, it’s the bits in-between an album (or two albums), the time off.
The thought that you might just as likely see this guy on a street corner, in a cafe near the bar or as part of someone else’s band for a club date makes it all the more appealing. And intriguing.
I’m hooked on this record; been playing it daily for a few weeks now. It’s got in under my skin. I’m thankful for that. Richly rewarding, warm and wonderful – this feels like a great new find. It’s all at once psychedelic-folk and something totally deserving of stepping out and away from any genre-label that could seem so contrived.