Steve Gunn isn’t so much a guitar slinger or six string god, as he is one of the tastiest players of his generation. Gunn’s work has been informed by the time spent as one of Kurt Vile’s Violators, not to mention the influence of musical masters like Robbie Basho, John Fahey, and La Monte Young. Yet one of his biggest influences was his father. One of the key tracks on Gunn’s new record The Unseen In Between is a tribute to his dad.
Without ever mentioning him by name, ‘Stonehurst Cowboy’ deals with Steve’s dad (also named Steve). The song covers his time in Vietnam, along with life on the streets of Philadelphia, Gunn and his guitar lovingly dig into the life of this man who could tell a story, box with some of Philly’s best, and became a touchstone in Gunn’s own life. The song plays out with just Gunn on guitar.
Ably assisted by Bob Dylan’s bandleader, Tony Garnier, on bass, Gunn also weaves a tender tale about a bodega owner and his cat, Luciano, with Gunn wondering what will happen when the cat dies. ‘Lightning Field’ is a meditation about what happens when an art installation doesn’t work. One of the few full band tracks it rocks not so much with a vengeance, but with a sense of sadness over what could have been.
There’s also a place in his heart for people on the fringes, folks who missed the mark and don’t qualify for society’s safety net. Their pursuit of “a crooked dream” on ‘Vagabond’ is marked by sense of humanity many never see. Meg Baird’s harmonies only add to the empathy.
A special sense of beauty and wonder inhabits ‘Morning is Mended’. Amidst the world’s hardships there are still moments of incredible beauty creating something special and new, despite the incredible heaviness that threatens to weigh us down. In Gunn’s hands that hope is tangible, making The Unseen In Between an incredible gift we need now more than ever.