First time I heard Steve Gunn was back in 2007 on a small label called Onomoto, known for acts like Taiga Remains and Ghosting. Gunn was pulling down ragged fingerpicked odes that hung in the air like frost. The sound quality was scratchy but the talent was clear under the hiss. Its been years since those days and ever since the second phase of Gunn’s life rolled down with 2013’s Time Off he’s been marked for greatness, steadily straightening the rumpled blazer sound that he’s stepped into. Eyes On The Lines is Gunn fully formed, running at peak but still never feeling flashy about it. The man can play. If you need any proof, plunk down a copy of Seasonal Hire, his collaboration with The Black Twig Pickers. That ought to set you straight. But even with the talent in tow, it’s the way he wields that makes him unique. Most of his songs tend to capture the feeling of the highway stretching endlessly on the horizon; sauntering in a way that clips by like the steady pace of pines out the rolled window. In this respect his solos never blister, they feel like the pent up relief of a good stretch when the car stops. They’re air in the lungs and feet on the ground.
Eyes On The Lines deploys those moments of clarity in ample doses but the surrounding build and fade is hardly shabby either. Sure its a more accessible and, dare say, mature record from Steve, but he’s finding a way to show age in style. The country touches whisper in at the edges, a bend of twang here and a dusted dose of strum running its way under the chorus. He’s still got some of his ragged roots showing though, there’s certainly a warble of psych that curls in with the rest of the smoke filling up the rooms of this record. In the end though, its all those touches coming together to make a perfect montage of diner coffees, halogen lights flickering over gas pumps, center lines and steel girders; the air peppered with throat dust and the cold freshness of leaves on the air. That’s the heart of Eyes On The Lines, that and the itch of needing to get moving, even when it feels good to stretch.
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