The fingerpicking style which drew comparisons to John Fahey which made him popular, has all but disappeared from Steve Gunn’s latest record, Other You. Since he joined Matador Record’s wonderful roster, Gunn has been evolving from album to album, into more of an extraordinary songwriter than an extraordinary instrumentalist, and his style is more uniquely his own, with each offering. Some fans might be disturbed by the transformation, but as Rolling Stones said he’s an artist’s artist. And like fellow art rockers, Radiohead, it is a thrill to see an act that reinvents themselves with every new outing.
“Other You,” therefore, is the perfect title for his album, since this is another side of Steve Gunn, one that has matured compositionally, so that Gunn is now making songs that don’t sound like any other artist out there. They are completely his own. Unlike his last album, The Unseen In Between, which is probably his most radio friendly album in his discography, Gunn is hazy and understated in his new album. The instrumental element is more atmospheric than technically precise, though the brilliant instrumentation remains. “From start to finish this one was a joy,” he says on his Facebook page. “No snags, never forced, a healing focus, a culmination of many things.”
The lyrics reflect that feeling of healing culmination, poetry that is more generalized altogether, impressionistic and open to more interpretation than his other albums. Perhaps in a play on the album’s title, Other You, he is thinking more about the other in relation to himself as he writes. “Leaning on the window / Feeling more alive / move into the stillness of you / song inside outside,” he sings on “Morning River.” Thinking about the interplay of “inside” and “outside,” “other” and “you,” and how everything has a song, every single person, dictated by the internal and external “weather,” so to speak.
It is an album for a lazy Sunday, perhaps, something to put on in the background and get lost in, float away with, enter another world. Meditate to, perhaps. It’s hard to appreciate the mastery of such an otherworldly album, without seeing how firmly he was planted in the immediacy of American music in his earlier offerings. Someone who started out with his 2014 breakout album, Way Out Weather, or later back, could never have guessed that this is the direction that he would have gone in. Just like each child has a distinct personality, but you love them all the same, however, I love this album along with all of his other offerings. Steve Gunn has aged well.
Pre-order Other You by Steve Gunn HERE