In 2013, New Yorker Steve Gunn was in Lisbon drinking vinasse and listening to fado with Mike Cooper, one of his biggest musical influences, on a visit-residence that resulted in the album Cantos de Lisboa (2014). Now, as he marks fifteen prolific years in his career, Gunn returns to ZDB for the fourth time, this time as a solo act – in 2017, he came with the Outliners; in 2018, with the John Truscinski Duo; and in 2019, with the Steve Gunn Band. Without wishing to make grand predictions for the concert, it will be helpful to remember that last year Gunn released his 21st album, Other You, almost immediately followed by an EP of reinterpretations of it, Nakama, released in January of this year.
In retrospect, Gunn’s career, marked by constant collaboration with renowned artists (besides folk veterans Mike Cooper and Michael Chapman, we have Kurt Vile, Ryley Walker, Mdou Moctar, Julianna Barwick, etc.), has seen a transition from mere instrumentalist to singer-songwriter, from guitarist to singer-songwriter, without losing any of the enthusiasm, brio, or the spark of the fingerings and licks that won over his first listeners. On the contrary, what characterizes Gunn’s discographic output is an insatiable but patient curiosity, and his guitar virtuosity has only adapted to the maturation of his songcraft, moving in and out of the sonic limelight as each theme demands. In fact, Steve Gunn’s fingerpicking orthodoxy, read American guitar primitivism à la John Fahey or Jack Rose, the country blues of a Bert Jansch or a J.J. Cale, etc., soon proved to be positively undermined by the cosmic-montane ragas of Robbie Bashou, the avant-garde experimentalism of La Monte Young or the psychedelic drifts of the Grateful Dead. Without hesitation, Steve Gunn is one of the unavoidable artists in the milieu of contemporary folk rock, alongside Amen Dunes, William Tyler, Kurt Vile, Ryley Walker, among others. AR