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Steve Gunn Eyes On The Lines Matador

Throughout Steve Gunn’s career, his solo works have been exhaustively likened to other artists’ material. It’s near impossible to source a critique or dialogue about his fret-sweeping, finger-picking style without some mention of John Fahey, Fairport Convention, Jack Rose, or Michael Chapman.

And despite him being vicariously influenced by all of the above, we should be cautious of accusing Gunn of resting on his laurels, of performing some kind of faux-Americana, saccharine, retro impersonation act. If Eyes On The Lines, Gunn’s fourteenth studio album to date (and Nth instalment amongst a seemingly never ending string of releases) proves anything, it’s that he’s just too passionate about his artform to be accused of insincerity.

Gunn’s previous solo album, 2014’s Way Out Weather, swelled at Gunn’s typically breezy pace. It moved like the long exhalation of air from lungs, but ended with Tommy’s Congo, a track with a comparatively heavy groove. On Eyes On The Lines, as intended, Gunn delves further into Tommy’s Congo‘s bluesy guitar work, seamlessly continuing where Way Out Weather signed off. With more cocksure pluck than previous offerings; electrified instrumentation is cushioned by Gunn’s dulcet, breathy vocal purrs. The steady chugging of Full Moon Tide and Ancient Jules sets a hasty, almost hubristic measure to the record’s opening; one only hinted at by Gunn in the past.

While collaborations with the likes of Mike Cooper and Black Twig Pickers have further enhanced Gunn’s reputation as a masterful guitarist, Eyes On The Lines is testament to Gunn’s burgeoning confidence as a songwriter. Lyrically, he eases further towards the abstract, with lines such as The Drop‘s ‘Landscape of repetition, drowned out at the service station,’ and ‘A field guide from the other side, beyond the path you know,’ from Conditions Wild – a song inspired by the writer Rebecca Solnit. And it’s this pensive daydreaming, these verbal snippets of reverie, that make Eyes On The Lines such a pleasing record to escape with.