It’s hard to imagine that a singer songwriter that I like has to make ten albums before I discover him (or her). Steve Gunn was originally one of Kurt Vile’s Violators but left to follow his own path. There’s not too much information about him on his Wikipedia page but this list of influences says a lot: Michael Chapman, La Monte Young, Indian music, John Fahey, Jack Rose, Robbie Basho, and Sandy Bull.
What makes Gunn interesting is how he has one foot firmly in the singer songwriter style but with a nagging need to keep his other foot in meanderings and reverie. His atmosphere isn’t an arty atmosphere, it’s not created by strange effects boxes, it’s built in, it’s natural for him to play it this way. He repeats rather than enhances his ideas and is probably more comfortable with instrumental music and may wonder sometimes (although his voice is also moody) if a track really needs a vocal. For example, the breaks are longer than they would normally be for a straightforward singer songwriter, the intros too, they are twice as long as one might expect. When you look at his influences you can see why, with reference to drones and artists that are renowned for their instrumental acoustic picking skills.
Gunn’s songs are often an electric picking journey, not of immense skill or through years of practising technique but more simply constantly knocking at the door of an idea until a door opens. He knows there’s something in there, something worthy and he keeps it alive where perhaps others might look for more of a hook or more musical difficulty. But Gunn finds the mood first and that’s what makes him different – he sees what others miss and this connection to the unseen translates into an odd album of uncertainty for us if not for him.
You can’t quite fit him into a style and not being able to pin him down keeps his music interesting – you can’t quite see where it’s all going even though you think you know. He’s not exactly unpredictable more unwilling to let you know what he’s up to next and with the influences he has, you can imagine that he must love the period in music when his inspired mentors could make albums like this to the joy of an open minded public. You can’t quite imagine too many record labels these days longing for Indie folk blues from Philadelphia, inspired by English Folk with a leaning towards Portugese and Indian tradition.
Gunn has managed to make three albums this year, Melodies for A Savage Fix with Mike Ganglof and Cantos De Lisboa with Mike Cooper. Mike Ganglof is the violinist from West Virginia’s Pelt. The drone concept features heavily and draws influence from the Indian Ragas as mentioned in Gunn’s influences, it’s here that you hear why Gunn’s solo album is not quite as straight forward as it might seem. The other album with English Folk legend, Mike Cooper is inspired by Portugese Fado and moody guitar improvisation from Gunn and Mike Cooper’s slide playing, again explains why Way Out Weather is where it is and what makes the album sit a step away from albums that might be deemed similar in style.
His music is like eating an apple that tastes like an orange, how could you not take a bite?