Gunn's first eponymous album with a full band, Time Off harnesses a core trio format to launch his compositions into new, luminous strata; the songs have evolved through disciplined trio interplay with longtime collaborator John Truscinski on drums and Justin Tripp (formerly of Aspera and Favourite Sons) on bass and guitar. Helena Espvall (Espers) also guests on cello. Steve's keen baritone voice features more prominently than ever before on these tunes, each of which feels both more rigorous and expansive than previous efforts. Here, Gunn the guitarist masterfully deploys the discursive, deconstructed blues style, at once transcendent and methodical, that has become his signature. Close listening reveals the influence of Delta and Piedmont country blues, ecstatic free jazz, and psych, as well as Gnawa and Carnatic music, on the continually unfolding compositions. The fresh emphasis on narrative, characters in counterpoint, and those heavy-duty vocals likewise recall the finest work of Steve's friend and sometime touring partner, Michael Chapman. Building on his established penchant for charting musical travelogues that ramble through city and wilderness alike, these dispatches about home are not merely descriptive but corporeal. Gunn's evocative writing and ductile instrumental phrasing, buttressed by the band's intuitive playing, carries the listener along bodily for the "Trailways Ramble." It's a real collection of foot-tappers and head-nodders, perfect for summer sessions.
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