Early listens to Steve Gunn’s new LP on 'Three Lobed' felt like a walk; a walk taken to a patch of wilderness found humming away amidst suburbia’s absent minded drone. A vantage point from which it all dissolves, shimmering to dust under the slow ecstasy of steel thrummings that make up the transparent walls of his ‘House of Knowledge’.
Gunn’s relatively indistinct but impeccably measured vocals appear infrequently, it’s clear from the outset that he sees great potential in the many stripes of six string guitar and hasn’t found proof to the contrary just yet. But when he does sing he breathes a cool ease, a kindly ease and a worldly looseness. For all the layers that lock arms with his acoustic meander-picking, the downtuned electric pulses, the soaring fuzz and the verandah-slide of Marc Orleans (of The Helix), the record is played and recorded in such a way that it gives you as much space to breath good air as it gives you music. True music at that, a record that transcends my loose predilection for American guitar records and speaks more than a style.
It breezes out of my speakers like fire both hot and cold, which reminds me of Roy Harper to some extent, in those moments before he seeks to warp, crush and howl it all down to the animals. Gunn never goes there, but he delivers a trip with similar passion and swiftness. Every note is peppered with enthusiasm, but when the excitement builds he holds back from tilting headlong into glory and despair, affording a longer look from the precipice.
His skill on the fretboard is paralleled amongst his contemporaries, but his choices are discerning. Throughout the nine minute’s of droop-eyed, wary blues that is ‘Mr Franklin’, who’ll “reel you in, but not too close”, every fill hits its mark in time and tone. One fiery cascade is eye-popping. Orleans and Gunn forego their complimentary rambling and slip down a sharp-toothed scale together, finding the ghosts of Sandy Bull and Bert Jansch between the fretted notes. For the last three minutes the slide guitar finds its way to a scruffed-up amp via some tremolo and delay, reinforcing the frequent reminiscence of an album called Paths of Ignition by Matt Baldwin.
The sequencing and diversity is impeccable throughout, more than once I have forgotten I was listening to a record, so seamlessly does it merge with my imagination. By the end it is a pleasure to head straight back in. ‘Variation II’ occupies two minutes of space between the two longest cuts, a solo instrumental venture on the acoustic guitar which bounds about and tempts me to throw out embarrassing epithets like Whitman and Blake channelled through wound bronze…
‘Dusted Mind’ is folk-blues at it’s drowsy poorest and hence it’s holiest, ‘Mustapha’s Exit’ is a personal favourite that you can find out about for yourself via 180grm vinyl and download (!) and ‘Jadin’s Dream’ is a hooded little thing that just landed on a Philadelphia dock ( having stowed away on a Yemeni cargo ship) and has promptly snuck off to the mountains… Ha!