Steve Gunn makes music that is simple sounding on the surface, but underneath there’s a complexity hiding under the breezy sway and summertime shine. He’s an incredible guitarist that shows he can handle pretty much anything that comes at him. On his latest, Way Out Weather, it’s all about southern jangle with an east coast sophistication.
When I heard last year’s excellent Time Off I wasn’t aware that Steve Gunn played in Kurt Vile’s live band The Violators. Now that I know that I can really hear that Vile laid back drawl in Gunn’s music. While Vile is firmly planted in the rock and folk camps in his songs, Steve Gunn sticks with a more earthy, organic sound. Though, he can kick it up a notch as well. “Drifter” is a hard-driving tune with some great Allman Brothers-like guitar. And “Atmosphere” has an almost psychedelic vibe to it with Gunn singing through a Leslie speaker. Steve Gunn’s voice is a smoother version of Califone’s Tim Rutili’s crackling, whispy voice. And Steve Gunn’s music does bring to mind that Chicago band’s rustic and at time acoustic-driven sound, though Gunn is more subtle and intricate. He’s a clever songwriter in that he hides his prodigious playing under simple, pleasing music. “Way Out Weather” brings to mind Allman Brothers’ Brothers and Sisters and the Dead’s Workingman’s Dead. The latter showing a band in their prime “taking it easy” while still dropping jaws at their musical proficiency. “Wildwood” has a nice shuffle rhythm and some great guitar run through a Leslie speaker. “Milly’s Garden” is a mover and a shaker. It’s a breezy track that could soundtrack a million road trips and don a thousand mix tapes. It will please fans of the Dead and Real Estate alike. It even has a little bit of the Stones in there with the great lap steel guitar. “Shadow Bros” is the blues, but of a different shade than what we’re used to. The acoustics crackle and jangle as Steve Gunn sings along to the beautiful waltz-time track. “Fiction” keeps that easy feel flow going with a touch of melancholy just underneath. “Tommy’s Congo” closes the album out on an almost tribal note, with a mantra-like guitar line that keeps repeating.
There seems to be a mantra-like feel to Steve Gunn’s music. It repeats itself over and over, lulling you into a meditative state till you almost forget there’s music playing. It transcends from just a song to something much deeper.
Way Out Weather is a record from start to finish that effortlessly flows and moves like a river in the country or a subway in the city. It’s one of those rare records that will appeal to many that can’t see eye to eye normally. It’s an album that brings folks together and lets them nod their heads together in unison. Simple and sophisticated.
8.2 out of 10