Steve Gunn

Other You

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Other You Review

by Timothy Monger

On his sixth solo release Brooklyn's Steve Gunn pairs a sun-dappled West Coast feel with moving poetic ruminations, resulting in his most relaxed and confident effort to date. After the thrilling road rock of 2016's Eyes on the Lines, Gunn downshifted into troubadour mode for The Unseen In Between, an enchanting, more sparsely endowed follow-up that hinted at some of the mellow riches to come. Recorded with co-producers Rob Schnapf and Justin Tripp during a pair of visits to Los Angeles, Other You is an airy, loose-limbed delight of inventive guitar work and understated songwriting that gels better than anything he's previously released. Among its many noteworthy contributors are experimental harpist Mary Lattimore, who lends her signature loops to the winsome "Sugar Kiss,'' and vocalist Julianna Barwick, whose celestial two-note choral stack provides the essential hook on standout "Good Wind." Also chiming in are British folk legend Bridget St. John, Belgian bass clarinetist Ben Bertrand, guitarists Jeff Parker and Bill MacKay, and drummer Ryan Sawyer. While each of his collaborators adds a unique layer to the record's subtext, it's ultimately Gunn's exquisite songwriting that conjures a sense of quiet uplift and deep satisfaction. Somewhat of a latecomer to the singer/songwriter field, Gunn's pedigree as an ace instrumentalist, sideman, and bandmate informed many of his earlier solo releases. Over time, though, his skills as a vocalist and lyricist became more refined, to the extent that his guitar virtuosity is now merely an added bonus rather than the focus of his music. Other You is a record full of diaphanous melodies that are direct enough to feel familiar, yet slightly misty, as though plucked from a bank of fond cumulative memory. The delightful combo, "Fulton'' and "Morning River," drifts like a warm breeze as jazzy drums and twinkling piano speckle the landscape. The beguiling "On My Way" interjects mysterious instrumental passages into its tranquil verses, shifting from light psychedelia to sudden Tuareg-inspired guitar squalls. In subtle ways, this album ties together all of the various disciplines Gunn has previously explored, from American primitive guitar playing to jazz, folk, indie rock, and drone music. Yet it is also something entirely new with a unique sound that is a joy to spend time with.

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