Steve Gunn: “Milly’s Garden”
The title of Steve Gunn's upcoming full-length, due in October, is Way Out Weather, and on the first available song, “Milly’s Garden,” the double-tracked melodic lead guitars billow in like warm sheets of rain. The album has a hint of ecological unease lurking behind it, as Gunn wrote it on tour with an eye to the passing landscape and the worrying changes roiling it. His voice has a little more pain and gravel here than it did on 2013’s rocking-porch gem Time Off, but he still sings with a calming and gentle soulfulness, a hand smoothing a bedsheet.
The full band he’s assembled opens into shimmering interludes that openly and warmly pay tribute to the Grateful Dead and the Band. The extended instrumentals feel less like “jams” than explorations—a fine and niggling distinction that nonetheless points to what is so often missing in extended instrumental interludes. You can sense, as a listener, that every single player has the same overall shape in their mind, and you can feel them all pushing towards it. This is masterful, textured and gorgeous. And as easy as it is to listen to, it conceals a grain of unease: “Your faith is savaged, and your mind is damaged/You’re more than halfway there.” Halfway to where, exactly, is unclear, but the uncertainty is evocative and troubling.