Steve Gunn has a way of making the unremarkable remarkable and his latest album, The Unseen in Between, may be the greatest example. The Pennsylvania-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter has been making albums since 2007, and he’s recorded with the likes of Kurt Vile, Michael Chapman and Hiss Golden Messenger. Gunn’s best known for his entrancing guitar lines and though this new album doesn’t break away from that tradition, it achieves them in a different way.
Gunn has dabbled with more experimental recordings throughout his career but over the last few years, he’s eased further into more accessible territory. His latest effort, The Unseen in Between, is his most accessible to date with simpler arrangements and a largely acoustic focus. However, the hypnotic sensibilities that he’s become synonymous with are still wildly apparent here. The opening track, “New Moon” is based around a trotting acoustic figure, but his vibrato electric guitar creates a dense cone of sound while shakers give it a meditative, freewheeling feel. And thanks to meticulous guitar riffs, “Lightning Field” is the perfect accompaniment for a late-night drive with its sedative, otherworldly aura.
The lyrics on this album are rooted in Gunn’s fascination with the drifters and the forgotten people in society. Featuring vocals from Meg Baird, “Vagabond” chronicles the stories of people just barely scraping by, “Luciano” is about the relationship between a bodega cat and modest store owner and “Chance” is about the hopelessness and unpredictability that one experiences when they don’t have a support system. With each solo record, Gunn’s voice appears more hearty and confident, and though he likely still fashions himself as more of a guitar player, there many gratifying vocal moments on The Unseen in Between, whether it be the self-effacing nature of “New Moon” or the genial, warm-hearted spirit of “Luciano.”
Gunn also dips his toes into the political pool on “New Familiar.” Though it’s far from blatant and he doesn’t call out anyone by name, he tries to make sense of the increasingly tense and less empathetic country that’s transpired from the absolute buffoonery of current political discourse. Gunn sings, “Unravel me with humor / Suspend me in the air / Its not there give it back / Laughing till we fall there’s not air anymore, new familiar.” Another highlight is Gunn’s ode to his late father, “Stonehurst Cowboy,” a Vietnam war veteran and the talk of the town.
On The Unseen in Between, Gunn noticeably removes himself from his songwriting as he prefers to be a message-bearer for the stories of forgotten souls. There’s a faint despair in these songs, but he makes up for it with his undying devotion to capture them as vividly as possible—in a way that doesn’t glorify the subjects’ predicament, but highlights their quirks and shines a spotlight on their wisdom. There’s an innate comfort that comes with listening to Gunn’s music and The Unseen in Between is that Sunday afternoon moment of self-care that you need in your life.