Posts Tagged ‘Steve Gunn’

Favorite Albums of 2020

Here’s the year end list. I’m not gonna wax on about how this year was rough, we all know it was a shit year and even more so for artists. It was, however, a great year for recorded music, and I had a hard time not making this list about twice as long to show love for all the albums that lifted me this year. I’ve long been against the whole idea of numbered lists, so once again things are presented in quasi-alphabetical style (I always mess one or two up in creating this, but you get the point). I’ve included Bandcamp embeds where they exist, so if you have the means and find something new, please reach out and support the artists here. Looking forward to 2021 as another year that music makes getting through easier.

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Gunn-Truscinski Duo

A decade into their partnership Gunn-Truscinski Duo continues to strip rock’s impulses back to its most basic elements. Despite Gunn’s rise to Matador namesake in more digestible waters, the pair have kept the Duo as an outlet of experimental edge — with Gunn’s guitar work weaving fragility and fury into instrumental bliss and Truscinski proving he’s an infinitely flexible foil. Much like contemporary Steven R. Smith, the pair are able to form compositions that radiate calm, dredge anxiety, and hound the listener with sonic horror, though they’re keeping close to the calm on Soundkeeper. As the record opens, they pad their way into the room with patience, not working to stun or shun the listener with a tumult unitl the moment is right. On through “Valley Spiral,” the record is coiled and cautious — picking through its motifs in slow spirals.

Once the band kicks into “Pyramid Merchandise,” though the tone changes. With a low-slung Gunn riff and an audible “whoo” sent up from the room, the duo begins to buck against the tide. Clangorous blues are wrestled and Gunn’s grit-teethed riffs grow fangs. John kicks the pace to match and the album lights a blaze against the forming darkness. From there the pair pushes through dirt-caked blues, crumbling under the Rust Belt’s weight before emerging once again with the languid, shimmering tones of calm waters once again. The title track pulls some tension once agan, urging them through 16+ minutes of wrangle and wain before skidding into the psychedelic blur in homage to Eddie Hazel that closes out the record, a smoldering elegy to the guitarist that rides away on the ashes of what they burnt down over the last hour. Its an excellent springboard into Three-Lobed’s new 20-year anniversary and a reminder of what’s made the label, and this band’s involvement in it over the years, so vital.




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Gunn-Truscinski Duo – “For Eddie Hazel”

Another subtle crusher lands from the upcoming Gunn-Truscinski Duo’s Soundkeeper and the album closer does its best to sum up what GTD is all about. An ode to the legendary P-Funk guitarist, this one dives deep into the Maggot Brain afterburn that bounces around the cavern that the duo often find themselves exploring. The song’s doused in a dry ice dose that’s billowing in every direction with Gunn working the cave sonics in tandem with a bit of low-end growl. Both players constantly push each other to the edges of their experimentation, but this is a nice focus in on a sound that gave the Duo life in the first place. Many have tried to emulate Hazel, and many have failed, but Gunn and Truscinski are more than up to the challenge. This LP kicks off the Three Lobed 20th Anniversary bundle that will include Daniel Bachman, Sunburned Hand of the Man, Six Organs of Admittance, Body/Head and Sonic Youth and an as yet to be announced LP. The Lobed knows, so I’d jump on that bundle while it sticks around.




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Gunn-Truscinski Duo – “Valley Spiral”

A whole lotta great news packed into one post here. First and foremost, Gunn-Truscinski Duo return and the first track off of their upcoming Soundkeeper is as slinking and satisfying as they’ve ever been. Steve Gunn’s been plenty busy holding it down solo over the past few years, but he and John Truscinski have kept up a partnership that pays out in knotted riffs and loose-limbed brilliance over the past few years. The bonus to this beast of at 2xLP release is that it marks the first of a new 20th Anniversary series by Three Lobed Records that’s both bound up as a limited bundle and available a la carte for those that don’t choose to enter into a year-long anticipation endeavor. But how ya gonna pass up that full package with names like Daniel Bachman, Sunburned Hand of the Man, Six Organs of Admittance, Body/Head and Sonic Youth on the ticket. That’s not to mention a bonus LP with secret performers, and if these are all the announced bands, what treasures could lie in that seventh entry? My love affair with Three Lobed has spanned the entirety of the site and their subscription series always prove essential. 20 years is an admirable milestone and from the sounds of it, this is off to a great start.

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Michael Chapman

For those already combing through the tributaries of seminal UK folk – running into the likes of Jansch, Harper and John Martyn – Michael Chapman is already dug in as a hero. For those less inclined to dig the history of British strings, perhaps he needs yet another introduction. Like Harper he’s more a product of mythical inspiration than a staple of the stereo shelf, but as he eases into his status as an elder statesman of the form, he should be carving out that space in your stacks more than ever. For every kid that learned about Roy Harper from the back cover of a Led Zep album, there’s an ever more introverted version of that kid tracking Chapman through connections to Mick Ronson or Thurston Moore. As of late the connection has spun out to seasoned and now indie anointed slinger Steve Gunn. Gunn produced Chapman’s last album 50 and likewise pulled in a slew of his own collaborators to give the songwriter a fitting accompaniment – everyone from Nathan Bowles to James Elkington and Jimmy SeiTang. Chapman’s longtime friend, Bridget St. John lent her voice to the record as well, knitting the folk family ever tighter.

That album was a rebirth for Chapman, a resetting of the map that had long gone askew. Chapman had by no means been quiet in the interim, but it gave a new notoriety to an artist that should have been ranking heavy on the radar of those who have been haunted by Gunn, Scott Hirsch, Wooden Wand, or Elkington’s solo works. For True North, Gunn returns to guide the gears, but leaves behind the ringers, though the accomplished slide work of BJ Cole finds its way in to the mix and St. John returns to add her signature touch. The album stands as an even stronger testament to Chapman’s enduring light. Largely just the songwriter and his guitar, the album is hung heavy with the wisdom of age – cut deep with the scars of decades, cascading like rings through wood and lacquered thick with the bar rag whiff of backrooms, green rooms, and broken mirror bathrooms that dot the stages of what passes as fitting for a folk career now and forever.

Chapman has a pathos, a humor, and a heft that doesn’t come cheap. There’s only one way to get the grey-eyed gut punch of truth into one’s music, and its not by avoiding the hard moments. Chapman is a conduit for pain and perseverance, standing on the edge of what society increasingly sees as mortality’s precipice, but while some of that baggage has hung about the artists shoulders there’s hardly a sense that he finds it a burden. True North is an album about not easing gently into anything, let along the night. Chapman, at just shy of 80 is still a beacon – grizzled, sure, but gleaming nonetheless. Whether this is your first step into Chapman’s view or pushing double digits, the record cuts deep, but sticks around to clean the wounds.



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Hans Chew

Hans Chew has popped up here from time to time, first with fellow traveler D. Charles Speer and then his name kept surfacing on albums from artists I’d held in high esteem – Jack Rose, Steve Gunn, Endless Boogie. Then he tucked into heading up his own crew. He’s been picking out his own brand of Americana over ever since, one that seems rougher, realer and a bit more country than the indie players who break out the acoustic and try to twang up their songs for a diversion from the norm. With the rhythm section from Rhyton behind him and compatriot Dave Cavallo adding a good dose of clearcut psych guitar, the album is leathered and worn with the kind of creases that current “outlaw” country isn’t coming close to.

Chew’s country is more of a feeling than an approach though. The heart of the record lies in a rock ‘n roll shallow grave, bleeding out for all the sinners after a bar brawl gone wrong. He’s got all the trappings of the local last call bar band, but with the kind of ingrained talent that would make you leave a beer hanging in stunned silence while the band tears into ’70s deep cuts from Let It Bleed, Greetings From L.A., and Zuma. There’s a certain grace to Open Sea, worn in like faded denim, comfortable and comforting all at once. It’s a reminder that sometimes a solid footing, even in territory that’s worn to threads, can feel just right.

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RSTB Best of 2017

So this year is drawing to a close, or almost, we’re still a few weeks away from pushing the broken pieces of 2017 into the trash. There’s no real solace from a lot of the events that took place this year, but, independent of any current events, music has been kind to us all this year. These are the records that spent the most time on the turntable over here. Yeah, I know its kind of a lot, but there were far too many good ones that haven’t been getting the shouts they need elsewhere. Lets say this serves as both a best of and a most overlooked in one go. If you enjoy ’em, buy ’em if you can. Don’t do them the disservice of just bumping up the streaming numbers.

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Gunn-Truscinski Duo

Has it really been since 2012 that Steve Gunn and John Truscinski paired their prowess to purge a temperamental squall from their instruments? Seems that it has, but the pair is back together and despite Gunn’s rather meteoric rise in the interim, it feels like not a day has passed in their symbiotic sonic pact. Bay Head, their new LP, sounds like two artists making music simply for themselves and the cut cord of commercial appeal suits them nicely.

Moving away from Gunn’s recent reliance on pop structure, the record builds its stormfronts on both his fingerpicked runs, threading the album like looped vines of sound, and a more caustic, rusted metal explosion of corroded fuzz. The album is, for the most part, covered in clouds that are grey streaked and threatening at times, but when the duo lets a little light in there’s a peek of delicacy as well (“Shell,” “Some Lunar Day”). Even Gunn’s most enticing moments, however, are not without a bouquet of thorns for listeners who relax into their twined beauty too quickly. This is not a sunshine ramble of folk, but rather a full picture of turmoil and respite.

The real beauty here is in the interplay between the two artists. With guitar and percussion duos the language is the most important thing and Gunn and Truscinski know how to converse, playing off one another in subtle nudges. When the guitars threaten to boil, scratching at their amps like caged animals, Truscinski pulls the chain, tumbling with Gunn but knowing where the boundaries lie. Bay Head is ecstatic and free, but never messy, never threatening to buck its listener. This album is a reminder of just how potent these two musicians can be, and even if its another five years before we get another one, it’ll have been worth it.




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Gunn-Truscinski Duo

Back before Steve Gunn was commanding Matador wheatpaste, he and John Truscinski had been laying down cinder-psych issues for Three Lobed with no particular agenda except finding the a common buzz and following it through the veil. They’re back in form here, with Steve shying away from his accessible canon of late and going in for scorched threads of nylon string rip and Truscinski anchoring him back down to the cruel, dusted Earth. Couldn’t be happier that the duo is divining the truth yet again, though I’d also be amenable to news of a new Golden Gunn album as well. Guess I shouldn’t go asking for favors. Still, mark you calendars for this nugget.




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Steve Gunn

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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