|Steve Gunn — Time Off (2013)|
Steve Gunn — Time Off
¬• This virtuoso guitarist, composer, and producer lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Location: Brooklyn, New York, NY
Album release: June 18, 2013
Record Label: Paradise of Bachelors
A1 “Water Wheel” 5:10
A2 “Lurker” 7:43
A3 “Street Keeper” 5:44
B1 “New Decline” 5:25
B2 “Old Strange” 7:01
B3 “Trailways Ramble” 8:54
¬ John Baldwin Mastering
¬ Helena Espuall Cello
¬ Steve Gunn Guitar, Vocals
¬ Tyson Lewis Piano
¬ Jason Meagher Engineer, Flute, Mixing
¬ Constance Mensh Photography
¬ Justin Tripp Bass, Guitar
¬ John Truscinski Drums
¬ 2013 album from the New York-based guitarist and songwriter. The album opens with the sublime, meditative 'Water Wheel', a paean to the water wheel's constant turn/open views and days to burn and indeed Time Off sounds as if Steve has swum full circle to reach the headwaters of his musical practice. This is Gunn at the top of his game, utterly unique but steeped in traditions both vernacular and avant-garde. Jump in.
¬ In the city we’re all angling for Quittin’ Time, laboring along and among the hours, searching and scheming for the sweet sound of those two easy words: Time Off. It’s something you take — or sometimes steal, like a thief or a baserunner — but seems you can never get enough of it. It’s regulated, rationed, and billed by volume, like water or electricity or ice cream. Sometimes you have to beg the boss for more, or even for a trifling taste. So let’s make time! Let’s roll the dice and get these old bones out on the road again.
¬ Steve Gunn’s new album imagines the fugitive moments afforded us during time off, out, and away as occasions for dilatory investigations into our immediate environments and interiors. Time Off (PoB-08) showcases the virtuosic guitarist and songwriter’s oblique character sketches and story-songs, some of which, like “Lurker” and “Street Keeper,” portray specific denizens of his Brooklyn neighborhood. “Old Strange” celebrates Jack Rose, a dear and departed friend and muse.
¬ Those contemplative studies frame Gunn’s most affecting, accessible and articulate work of pure songcraft to date. His definitive statement as a songwriter, Time Off represents the culmination of nearly fifteen years of stylistic experimentation as a solo artist, a member of GHQ and the Gunn-Truscinski Duo, and more recently, as a guitarist in fellow Philadelphia-bred troubadour Kurt Vile’s touring band the Violators.
¬ Gunn’s first eponymous album with a full band, Time Off harnesses a core trio format to launch his compositions into new, luminous strata; the songs have evolved through disciplined trio interplay with longtime collaborator John Truscinski on drums and Justin Tripp (formerly of Aspera and Favourite Sons) on bass and guitar. Helena Espvall (Espers) also guests on cello. Steve’s keen baritone voice features more prominently than ever before on these tunes, each of which feels both more rigorous and expansive than previous efforts.
¬ Here, Gunn the guitarist masterfully deploys the discursive, deconstructed blues style, at once transcendent and methodical, that has become his signature. Close listening reveals the influence of Delta and Piedmont country blues, ecstatic free jazz, and psych, as well as Gnawa and Carnatic music, on the continually unfolding compositions. The fresh emphasis on narrative, characters in counterpoint, and those heavy-duty vocals likewise recall the finest work of Steve’s friend and sometime touring partner, Michael Chapman.
¬ Building on his established penchant for charting musical travelogues that ramble through city and wilderness alike, these dispatches about home are not merely descriptive but corporeal. Gunn’s evocative writing and ductile instrumental phrasing, buttressed by the band’s intuitive playing, carries the listener along bodily for the “Trailways Ramble.” It’s a real collection of foot-tappers and head-nodders, perfect for summer sessions.
¬ The album opens with the sublime, meditative “Water Wheel” — a paean to “the water wheel’s constant turn/open views and days to burn” — and indeed Time Off sounds as if Steve has swum full circle to reach the headwaters of his musical practice. ¬ This is Gunn at the top of his game, utterly unique but steeped in traditions both vernacular and avant-garde.
¬ Steve Gunn’s first album with a band, featuring John Truscinski and Justin Tripp
His most affecting, accessible, and articulate work of pure songcraft to date, with a new emphasis on vocals.
¬ Available on virgin vinyl, in a deluxe, limited edition, as well as on CD and digital formats (all purchases from this website include a link for immediate download of the entire album).
¬ Vinyl edition features matte, tip-on jacket, full-color inner sleeve, and digital download coupon.
¬ CD housed in heavy matte gatefold wallet.
¬ Package features artwork by Anthony Campuzano, Constance Mensh, and Justin Tripp
By Patrick Wall
¬• While a few of Steve Gunn’s former collaborators — Magik Markers, Kurt Vile — were sweating it out in packed rock clubs at this year’s Hopscotch festival, the guitarist performed in the rose garden of the Raleigh Little Theatre at North Carolina State University. A few miles outside the festival’s downtown hub of dingy dive bars and slick outdoor stages, Gunn and the other members of his trio — bassist Justin Tripp and drummer John Truscinski — meandered through much of the material on Time Off, performing casually but intensely on an old stone pavilion in front of a backdrop of verdant oaks and a sky painted a luxuriant shade of Carolina blue.
¬• It couldn’t have been a more perfect venue. Though written largely about characters in Gunn’s Brooklyn neighborhood, Time Off gets out of the city, eschewing hustle and bustle for relaxed ease and gauzy pastoral hues. Time Off is redolent of the outdoors, its languid tempos suggesting the lazy currents of back-woods rivers, its cascading melodies intimating rolling hills. Indeed, its metaphysical lyrics, too, suggest unregimented rustic time, whether Gunn’s cooing about water bumping a water wheel into motion on “Water Wheel” (“The water wheel’s constant turn / Open views and days to burn”) or even in the vagrant anthem, “The Lurker” (“Find a spot / Kill some time / Look around”).
¬• As a guitarist, Gunn often draws comparisons to Jack Rose and John Fahey, but Time Off swaps the oft-busy playing of American Primitivism — a style Gunn can certainly play well, and a style that certainly seeps into his helical progressions — for undemanding, even rote verse-chorus-verse structures. Gunn, a musical polyglot, here works in the vernacular of the quieter parts of the American South, imbuing a little urbanity to sleepy Appalachian twang. Its bucolic, rollicking folk recalls The Grateful Dead, but its innate granularity — its players, remember, are avant-garde guns-for-hire — defies any tendency toward granola gaudiness. And while the connections to Southern California country-rock are intrinsic (the pysch-tinged vamp of “Street Keeper” suggests American Beauty, and the extended boogie of “New Decline” is directly descendent of Creedence’s choogle), Gunn’s playing on Time Off owes just as much to British folk-blues — Bert Jansch, certainly; side B of Led Zeppelin III, definitely; maybe even a little Nick Drake.
¬• As pleasant as Gunn is a guitarist, he’s an equally low-key vocalist, his flat delivery and barbiturate baritone unobtrusive and lackadaisical — just kind of there, often, buried slightly beneath Trucinski’s and well below his own gently spiraling guitar in the mix. It’s kind of a shame, actually, as Gunn’s Impressionist vignettes are quite interesting on close listen, showcasing Gunn’s marked maturity as a songwriter. See, again, “The Lurker,” which appeared on a Three Lobed compilation in 2011 in a 20-minute version; here, it clocks in at just under eight. While Time Off’s six tracks just miss the 40-minute mark, the album never feels overlong, Gunn’s luxurious guitar work — buoyed by Tripp and Truscinski’s knack for groove — and densely detailed workouts are so entrancing that they seem to fly by quickly. (Truscinski’s drum work is especially good here, his elasticity filled with great use of unusual accents, particularly in the implied half-time shuffle at the end of “The Lurker.”)
¬• In a year of great records from avant-garde guitarists (see: Daniel Bachman’s Seven Pines; William Tyler’s Impossible Truth; Glenn Jones’ My Garden State; and even Golden Gunn, Gunn’s collaboration with Hiss Golden Messenger) filled with fantastical and frenzied flourishes, Time Off thrives by going native, by taking it easy, by trading fiery interplay for cool, casual vibe. These back-porch barn-burners rarely put the pedal to the metal, but when the ride is this smooth and the scenery this good, who would want to do that? (http://www.dustedmagazine.com/)
Review by Thom Jurek; Score: ****
¬• For most of the last decade and a half, guitarist Steve Gunn has been quietly going about his business as a musician's musician. In addition to collaborating with Meg Baird, the Magik Markers, and Kurt Vile, he has been an active recording artist as a member of GHQ, the Gunn Truscinski Duo, and in his low-key way, as a solo artist. ¬• Time Off is his first trio recording under his own name. Gunn is a guitarist of wide interests and skillful versatility, whether it be early blues traditions like Piedmont or Delta styles, American Primitive, Indian music, psych, Gnawan, etc. He seeks out what inspires him then masters it. This set was reportedly cut in the breaks he had between other projects. Its six songs (clocking it at nearly 40 minutes) ranging from five to nearly nine minutes, are performed with Truscinski on drums and bassist Justin Tripp. ¬• Those seeking the fiery interplay of GHQ will be surprised by the vibe here. Gunn employs his layered acoustic guitars primarily, with electric guitars woven in sporadically. He also sings on all but one track. This band is tight. They weave Americana, folk, blues, psych, improvisation, drone, and more into Time Off. The 12-string in "Water Wheel" opens with a gorgeous vamp that changes shapes effortlessly in spite of its repetition, and becomes an intricate through-flowing jam. The brief electric guitar solo briefly carries it in another direction only to return like a shapeshifter. Check the group interplay on the darkly tinged psych folk of "Lurker," which is simultaneously locked yet open to possibility. The guitar vamp that becomes the body of "Street Keeper" suggests the Grateful Dead's "Cassidy," though Gunn opens it up with jazz chord voicings and a lilting bridge; recording engineer Jason Meagher's pulsing flute moves it further afield. "New Decline" is a slide guitar psych blues that offers an extended electric guitar break and deep choogling boogie by the rhythm section. Tom-toms and fingerpicked guitars introduce "Old Strange." The guitar comes out of the Delta blues, but Helena Espvall's cello turns that on its head, and it becomes a spooky, infectious dark groove that suggests Led Zeppelin's more sinister acoustic moments. The nearly nine-minute closer, "Trailways Ramble," is the only instrumental; it's a sprawling, fluid, densely detailed workout with 12-string and slide guitars, cello, and that unshakeable rhythm section creating 21st century trance music. ¬• Time Off contains great songs. It's warm, spacious, sophisticated, and elastic. The only complaint is that Gunn's singing isn't more present in the mix, but even so, it adds to the album's sense of mystery. Gunn is at a creative peak here; can’t wait for more. (http://www.allmusic.com/)
By Amanda Petrusich; July 12, 2013; Score: 7.9
By CLIFFORD ALLEN; Score: ****½
¬• US: Ground Control Touring
¬• EU: Filho Unico
Press: Graeme Flegenheimer, Enabler PR: Graeme@enablerpr.com
STEVE GUNN, 27.01.2014, Tonstudio, Stuttgart
|Steve Gunn — Time Off (2013)|