TRACK REVIEW: Steve Gunn “Milly’s Garden”

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Steve Gunn Constance Mensh
Steve Gunn. Photo by Constance Mensh

Despite his fifteen-year career and numerous collaborations, including work with Kurt Vile’s group The Violators, Steve Gunn always seems reluctant to advertise himself. I’m not just talking about advertising in a buy-my-records sense, although there is that — last year, the brilliantly nuanced Time Off slid right under the radar — but even on a riff by riff level, Gunn’s albums showcase his guitar work without bragging about it. Each phrase falls with decisiveness, but very little fanfare.

Not unlike its creator, Gunn’s new single “Milly’s Garden,” from the forthcoming full-length Way Out Weather, gives off an aura of understated good nature. Gunn’s music has always had a special sensitivity to physical environs, but whereas his more folky (and nomadic) records seemed to amble through a backdrop of wild Americana, “Milly’s Garden” sits still in and revels in one place, letting its thoughts turn inward instead of focusing on the passing scenery. Gunn’s virtuosity on the guitar isn’t flashy, but here, on a track that isn’t in a hurry to get anywhere, his skill shines through.

The song leans more towards instrumental long-form rock music than Gunn’s music has done in the past, and there is SO VERY MUCH to be said for a jam musician who isn’t blindly in love with the sound of his own guitar. Listening to this, it occurred to me that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a blues-based long jam played humbly before, but here it is: and it’s just a way to isolate guitar lines and dress them up with intricacy and variation. When Gunn lets his ingenuity on the guitar be more important than structure or vocals or songwriting, the resulting music actually feels pared down. “Milly’s Garden” is catchier and more concentrated than most of the songs on Time Off, but doesn’t sacrifice any of the intimacy of that album.

Way Out Weather doesn’t drop until October 7th, but you can pre-order it now and check out “Milly’s Garden” below via Soundcloud:

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