Steve Gunn: “Water Wheel”

Steve Gunn enjoys to do things his own way. The New York guitarist has taken an idiosyncratic approach to his own musical career, which has in turn taken him in some unusual directions. Like a lot of kids, Gunn grew up a punk fan and did time in a number of hardcore bands in his hometown of Philadelphia. He soon developed a love for guitar, but instead of hewing to the three-chords-and-the-truth model of punk rock, Gunn gravitated towards more free-form playing. He befriended the late Jack Rose, a guitarist who showed him the true possibilities of the instrument through his own intensive acoustic guitar instrumentals.

Over the past fifteen years, Gunn has stayed out of the mainstream, but he’s maintained a prolific and diverse style. He’s collaborated with dozens of musicians, including a current stint with Kurt Vile & the Violators, and his work spans the full gamut of the guitar: psychedelia, country, folk, blues, jazz, even Indian raga. When he’s on his own, Gunn has kept his own voice out of his recordings, choosing to let his fluid guitar-playing do the talking.

But that’s not the case with Time Off. Amassed over the course of literal time off that Gunn had between other obligations, the new solo album finds him putting words to his guitar vamping. Drummer John Truscinski and bassist Justin Tripp provide the perfect foundation for Gunn, and things are kept pretty simple. Songs like “Water Wheel” unfold at a relaxed pace, settling into an instrumental groove before Gunn adds his laconic voice. It all sounds so effortless, but just beneath surface is an artist who’s worked hard to sound this good.

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