By now, you know Steve Gunn‘s story – guitar player turned solo artist, whose 2014 album Way Out Weather was among the most rewarding and outstanding albums of that year. It was an emphatic statement by Gunn, proclaiming to the world that he legitimately belongs alongside the likes of Damien Jurado, Father John Misty, and Jack White as multi-talented artists who told moving stories.
Gunn’s latest effort, Eyes On The Lines, validates Gunn’s place among the industry’s stalwarts, as the Pennsylvania native shares another album that can be considered an “instant classic”. For that matter, the entire album feels like it is from another era, when rock ‘n roll and folk-rock were the musical standards of the day. A time when Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, The Grateful Dead, The Band, and The Allman Brothers were played on radio stations and whose records would be found in every jukebox across the United States. It is this timeless quality that Gunn brings to his outstanding fourth record.
While “Full Moon Tide” is the perfect driving song and “Conditions Wild” offers a smooth and graceful euphoria in The Doors mould, it is Gunn’s songwriting that truly shines. Whereas Way Out Weather consisted of epic tales, Eyes On The Lines has a more introspective and personal vibe even though Gunn never uses the pronouns “I” or “me”. Specifically, Eyes On The Lines is a wandering record, where Gunn describes endless journey searching of an individual who is searching for something.
The opener, “Ancient Jules”, introduces the lonely, lost soul who, at one point, Gunn describes as a “misstep fool”. And heading the advice of a friend as he travels the endless highways, Gunn sings, “Figure it out, Jules would say. Take your time, ease up, look around, and waste the day. On “Nature Driver”, Gunn continues to guide us on this journey, as he sings:
Highway is fully stacked, think we’ll turn around
Go down another road and through a different town
Feel the direction like a rock upon the moon
Come on the overpass and hope to get there soon
Hope to get there soon
It is a song of a man who has traveled many miles, possibly a reflection of Gunn’s own journey of self-discovery and coming to the point where he is professionally and personally. This is validated on “Night Wander”, as Gunn describes the nomadic life of a person whose home is her surroundings. The dark and moody “Park Bench Smile” further takes us into the depths of loneliness and loss, where the world is governed by betrayal and mistrust and where “the hustle always hooks”.
The gentle closer “Ark”, meanwhile, includes subtle references to the Bible and Noah, who, likewise, was not sure what he was seeking. It was not just land, but a salvation that extends to the viscera and even metaphysical. Exactly what is being sought, we are never told even in the finale. Gunn, instead, leaves it to the audience to decide what the protagonist – or even the listener – is seeking. Maybe it is love, maybe it is family, maybe it is home, or maybe it is ourselves. The song is a clever, masterful piece of storytelling, and it is the perfect ending to this contemplative and introspective album.
With Eyes On The Lines, Gunn demonstrates his continuing growth as a songwriter and a complete artist. Actually, we may need to stop saying these things because Gunn is no longer an artist that needs to be watched. He, instead, should be recognized as one of the best in the business today.
Cover photo by Constance Mensh.
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