Steve Gunn is an incredibly prolific singer-songwriter and guitarist who straddles a hazy dividing line between indie rock and the American primitivism of John Fahey, Robbie Basho and Sandy Bull.
He first came to my attention in 2016 with Eyes on the Lines, particularly in the driving opener “Ancient Jules”, which has that rare mix of rock instrumentation with folk riffs in the vein of Richard Thompson’s “Roll Over Vaughan Williams”. But Gunn has been producing a steady album per year since 2007. This last one though, The Unseen in Between, comes with a delay of almost three years, which might account for the crowd and air of anticipation in Loppen tonight.
Known mainly for his fingerpicking style, Gunn is joined on stage by a full band, including a lead guitarist with a deep attachment to his fuzz pedal, which brings out the more psych-rock elements of the music, particularly in their closing jam.
“New Moon” has a dreamy, 60s shimmer to it, although its resemblance to Them’s cover of “It’s All Over, Baby Blue” ends up reminding me much more of Beck’s “Jackass”. There is less overt post-modernism to Steve Gunn’s approach to Americana, but he is equally unconcerned with sounding overtly “vintage”.
That being said, the standout moment will probably remain Gunn’s solo acoustic piece that opens his encore, a moment of fingerpicking mastery that will more than suffice for those of us far too young to have heard the masters on anything other than mp3s.