I’m not sure where I first heard Steve Gunn. All I know is that something led me to his Bandcamp page and more spins of his album Time Off than I can count. It was like a cool breeze hitting you in the face on an otherwise hot and humid day. Fluid, languid guitar playing throughout giving the album a chilled vibe. A buzzed, stoned carefree quality on Time Off made it easy for me to keep coming back to it. I’m not saying Steve Gunn was tokin’ and then hitting record, but he gives off a vibe like he could be and it comes across in the great laid back vibe of his songs.
Gunn is getting ready to release a new album on October 7th called Way Out Weather, and if lead single “Milly’s Garden” is any indication he’s delved into a bit of Workingman’s Dead and At Fillmore East for inspiration. The song flows and grooves like Gunn’s previous work, but with more confidence. His guitar playing is looser with more of a southern feel. Gunn is quickly becoming one of my favorite players. Where a lot of guitarists feel blocked into certain modes and bogged down in guitar theory, Steve Gunn’s playing sounds light and loose; not locked into to any particular theory. His fingers go where the song takes them. At five and a half minutes the song doesn’t feel that long. It could go on for ten minutes and I think I’d be happy. The Grateful Dead aren’t really a band I’ve ever loved or even moderately liked, but “Milly’s Garden” gives me a little insight into what those die-hard fans of Garcia and company fell so hard for. There’s also a bit of the Black Crowes’ The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion in this track as well.
All around, “Milly’s Garden” is a sweet and soulful song. Finding out that Gunn was part of Kurt Vile’s Violators band and is from Pennsylvania as well makes the fact that I love his music so much more understandable. Vile’s penchant for extended jams within his songs is here in Gunn’s songs as well; though with Gunn his sound is more earthy and organic where Vile is more street-grimed jean jacket rock n’ roll. I love the idea of getting lost in your own creation and playing on till you walk out the other side. Kurt Vile does this beautifully and Steve Gunn has proven adept at this as well. Tracks like “Water Wheel” and “Lurker” off Time Off were meditative. You could truly get lost in the music. They flowed like some natural spring from Gunn’s hands onto his guitar. The ebb and flow like a mantra he repeated for the song’s length. “Milly’s Garden” is an extension of this musical philosophy done with bluer skies and broader horizons.