Steve Gunn

The Unseen in Between

[Matador; 2019]

Rating: 3.5/5

As the new album title could suggest, Steve Gunn is among the singer-songwriters who resist overt lyrical messaging, for whom tradition is both a thing to honor and a jumping-off point to something else. This something else is not better or even new necessarily. It’s less experimentation and more curbing the impulse to rep for the old things that inform and inspire us. Instead, these musicians amble, allowing what’s sturdy about beloved touchstones to be enlivened with symbiotic potential. The world is then graced with sounds that are simultaneously nostalgic and grounded, where it isn’t about what’s urgent so much as the quiet pleas for the preservation of reflection. Or perhaps just the graciousness to do what comes natural and soothe the weary world around us.
Even with the continued polish and expanded grandeur of his arrangements (the sweeping strings-and-harmonica moment toward the end of the opener is eyebrow-raisingly vast for the artist), there is a sober, matter-of-fact kind of reassurance to Gunn’s songs that remains consistent. Although a large element of that comes from his unassuming singing, he sounds more soulful on The Unseen in Between, allowing his voice to sustain a bit more. Lead-off single “Vagabond” is likable enough (namely for Meg Baird’s airy backing vocal), but it might be the slightest thing on here. It’s a little too close to that dour but poppy blues rock of the War on Drugs or post-Childish Prodigy Kurt Vile sound, where he already has enough of his

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