Steve Gunn - The Unseen In Between - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Steve Gunn - The Unseen In Between

by Kevin Orton Rating:9 Release Date:2019-01-18
Steve Gunn - The Unseen In Between
Steve Gunn - The Unseen In Between

Steve Gunn reminds me of how many good singer-songwriters are out there. Chances are you have no idea who David Francis is, but he’s just as good as Steve Gunn. And the only reason why I bring David Francis up is that Steve Gunn reminds me of him, vocally. Both are Brooklyn based and Gunn is a bit younger in the tooth with a much higher profile, having rubbed shoulders with the likes of Kurt Vile as a member of the Violators. That said, Gunn is definitely a low key personality.

Gunn has stated that his influences include Michael Chapman and being a Chapman fan, I can certainly hear that. I can also hear Bert Jansch in addition to plenty of Sandy Bull, Robbie Basho, and Jack Rose. Though Gunn exercises far more restraint than Bull and has a definite Pop sensibility. That said, I hear plenty of Steve Wynn and Johnny Marr on his latest long player, The Unseen In Between. A beguiling title that aptly sums up Gunn’s pleasant, unassuming approach. This is strong material and well played but in today’s market, it’s easy for it all to get lost amidst the hullabaloo and noise. And that’s the point. This is a break from all that.

Like a lot of the songs on here, ‘New Moon’ has a solid acoustic guitar base before the band kicks in. “Out past the streets, beyond the weather,” Gunn sings. And it’s clear that’s where his eye is at. When the electric guitar kicks in, one can’t help hearing a more mellow echo of The Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now’. Close on the heels we have, ‘Vagabond’. A catchy, graceful tune with sentiments like, “camped out in a graveyard, took a job cleaning some tombstones, like lovers in a shadow of a crooked dream.” A dark, searching tune with a tasteful Byrds jangle at times coupled some Bluesy, Dire Straits riffing. It's not the kind of song that will light the world on fire, but it’s solid stuff that will have you coming back for more.

‘Stonehurst’ is the kind of spare acoustic ballad, Michael Chapman and Bert Jansch excelled at. Its bleak, mid-winter feel characterizes much of this album. Without band backing, one can hear Gunn in his element. The delicate, ‘Luciano’ continues in this acoustic vein but subtly adds in strings and percussion. It’s one of The Unseen’s most gorgeous and compelling moments. The haunting reverb on his vocals at the end hit just the right note.

‘The New Familiar’ has a very 60’s English Folk start, then Gunn’s vocals provide a shimmering wash over his hypnotic playing. More than anything this track brings the Feelies to mind. Then, things rise to an almost Dream Syndicate, Television psyche climax. A slow-burning highlight on an album that seems far more concerned with the cracks in the pavement than walking all over you.

‘Lightning Field’ delves even more into the dreamy atmosphere and it's up to the listener whether or not they want to tag along. If they do, the rewards are manifold. “Into the ground is where we’re about,” Gunn offers. Here, Gunn’s chops are on full dazzling display. Before long, the haze parts and we’re standing where ‘Morning Is Mended”. A hushed, acoustic song of inescapable melody. “See you in a nothing sky, now the morning is mended,” he sings. “The story is never ending”. 

The album ends with, ‘Paranoid’. If you’re expecting a Black Sabbath cover think again. Piano and acoustic guitar lay the groundwork for a mesmerizing ballad. Lines like, “shapeless face among the weeds,” hint at dark thoughts while musically, we’re floating on a bed of feathers. A song, that like much on offer here, lives up to the album title. In ‘Paranoid’ one couldn’t ask for a more beautiful send-off.

Given a superficial listen, much of this stuff could easily go in one ear and out the other. It isn’t going to grab you by the throat. Gunn sure as hell isn’t taking a “look at me” approach to marketing himself. Personally, I find this no-nonsense, low-key attitude refreshing in a day and age when today’s performers rely more on publicity stunts than music quality. You can take that as a dig on Kanye or Miley Cyrus if you want. I don’t give either the time of day. I’ll take that time and give it to this gorgeous, low key long player instead.

Comments (1)

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Couldn't agree more. Gives Way Out Weather a run for it's money. Great review for a great album.

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