Brooklyn singer, songwriter, and guitar slinger Steve Gunn makes his Matador debut with Eyes on the Lines, a windblown set of road explorations that, despite its meandering nature, is one of his most accessible records yet. The Pennsylvania native has maintained a prolific output over the previous decade, much of it in the form of one-off projects and collaborations, but his solo releases all seem to spring from the same well of wanderlust. Expanding on the spacious sound of his excellent 2014 LP, Way Out Weather, Eyes on the Lines is more of a free-flowing rock affair, finding Gunn and his band locking into bucolic grooves that take their time to unfurl. Both lyrically and musically, Gunn's themes seem geared toward observation and the natural relationship with one's surroundings, urging listeners to "take your time, ease up, look around, and waste the day" on opener "Ancient Jules." It introduces the album's casual tone and sets up subsequent highlights like the breezy "Nature Driver" and "Night Wander," an affable moonlit ramble whose nimble riffs are punctuated by some clever work from drummer John Truscinski. As with Gunn's more recent albums, echoes of cerebral jammers like the Grateful Dead and the Velvet Underground can be heard in his work, though his style ultimately comes across as more impressionistic than either of those two sources. But as blissed-out a road record as it is, Eyes on the Lines contains some very thoughtful and well-designed songwriting, with lead single "Conditions Wild" being among its best. Inspired by Rebecca Solnit's book A Field Guide to Getting Lost, it's a thematic centerpiece to an album that leans toward the path less taken.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger