Steve Gunn: The Unseen in Between
Finding the mystical in the ordinary is one of Steve Gunn’s strengths, which is what makes The Unseen in Between, his fourth solo full-length and his second for the venerable Matador label, such a beautiful revelation. He draws inspiration from folk guitar heroes as far afield as Michael Chapman and Robbie Basho, but with echoes of the Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd and even Sun Ra. That foundation informs songs like the sublimely meditative “New Moon,” which Gunn opens in his usual cryptic fashion: “I see a glimmer/ Across the wall, through the mirror/ Out past the streets, beyond the weather/ To that place that no one seems to know.” His voice sounds swathed in a dream, airy and far away, but the sensation of being taken on a journey is palpable and real. It helps to have a killer band along for the ride—among them multi-instrumentalist and producer James Elkington, bassist (and Bob Dylan’s musical director) Tony Garnier, drummer TJ Mainani and backing vocalist Meg Baird—all of whom seem to draw sustenance from Gunn’s gentle but plaintive voice and his infectious guitar riffs, often crafted with alternate tunings (check the Velvets-like “Vagabond,” the pastoral country lope of “Chance” or the powerfully Floyd-ish buildup of “Paranoid”). The real highlight is “Lightning Field,” a groovy, hypnotic tribute to a work of land art by sculptor Walter De Maria. When he sings the simple verse “Lightning fields, rows of steel/ Into the ground is where we’re bound,” Gunn seems to have tapped into a trance state that we can all strive for—a space where all that exists is peace, reverie and endless possibility.