We could all learn something from Steve Gunn.
Now in his mid-thirties, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter has eschewed the constraints of time that cause musicians to churn out mediocre work just to keep afloat. For the last fifteen or so years he’s been building a network of collaborators and admirers in the underground clubs of New York, lending his nimble guitar playing to the drone / psych experiments of GHQ, the mystical and mysterious rumblings of his duo with drummer John Truscinski and always pushing the frontier of solo acoustic guitar playing.
His is a realm of genre confluence that innately desires experimentation, discovery and adventure while demanding an exact ability to work within rigid boundaries: chords, keys and tone. And Gunn’s efforts have always been precise, even in their most free-form, avant-garde moments. Perhaps the juxtaposition of freedom and limitations in his music comes from living in New York City for over a decade, a city that encourages its inhabitants to think outside the box and break down perceived walls, both creative and social, while simultaneously urging them forward in a swift current that doesn’t allow for many missteps.
All of this comes after Gunn cut his teeth in Philadelphia as a compatriot of Jack Rose and Meg Baird, becoming part of a local movement that celebrated and expounded on the trailblazing fingerpicking of John Fahey, Harry Taussig and other American Primitivism guitarists. His own albums are steeped in cultures both near and far, colored by trips to Morocco, Ireland, Turkey, Portugal and cities all over the U.S. and approached through the back alleys of acid jazz and psych-folk.
But back to timing. Time Off, the follow-up to 2009′s Boerum Palace and Gunn’s label debut on Paradise of Bachelors, sees the Lansdowne native expertly weaving his experiences with raga, blues, folk, jazz and rock into a vibrant tapestry that reveals more and more of its intricacies over time. It’s a crock-pot of American tradition, world travels, characters, moments and ideas that seem both familiar and new; it’s an homage to what music has been, is and could be that The Key’s editor, John Vettese, aptly described as a “vision quest.” To learn more about his influences, process and the new LP I swapped emails with Steve ahead of his record release show this Saturday, June 22nd at Johnny Brenda’s. Continue reading →
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