Steve Gunn’s albums, like the excellent other you, are misleading.
They scan like sweet, catchy singer-songwriter fare, anchored in Gunn’s soft vocals and reverberating guitars and songs on calm mornings and restorative walks. But, as Gunn’s solo performance Friday night at Ardmore Music Hall revealed, his songs are built on impressive guitar lines and skillfully contained tensions.
Although now based in Brooklyn, Gunn grew up in Lansdowne, went to Temple, and immersed himself in the work of exploratory folk guitarists such as John Fahey, Robbie Basho and Philly’s Jack Rose while also falling under the spell of the Sun Ra. Arkestra and other avant-garde experimenters of jazz aging. He’s also comfortable playing ten-minute free jazz improvisations, swapping rock riffs with Kurt Vile (whose group he joined Violators for a while), and performing esoteric folk tunes at the Newport Folk Festival, such as he did it last summer.
His 60-minute set Friday, the penultimate date of a headlining tour with post-rock / jazz guitarist Jeff Parker, was a homecoming. He wished a late happy birthday to his mother and sister who were in the comfortably distant audience, well masked and vaccinated, and he bonhetically mocked a rowdy cry for the pillars of Ardmore, the Hooters. .
The show’s solo acoustic arrangements emphasized the depth, variety and complexity of the guitar lines that underpin its pastoral melodies. “New familiar”, from the years 2019 The invisible between the two, went from smooth feedback ripples to a delicate circular feed that spun on a fast triplet. On the pretty “Morning River”, one of the few songs by other you, his sustained chords sounded like keyboards; on the meditative “Fulton,” slightly distorted notes punctuated the shimmering surface. Gunn also paid tribute to his friend Michael Chapman, the British folk artist who died in September at the age of 80, in a haunting and direct cover of “Among the Trees”.
While the ensemble was moderated, there were glimpses of its experimental side, particularly in the ensemble’s closing âWay Out Weather,â the title track from his 2014 album and when he joined Jeff Parker. at the end of his 55-minute set.
Parker, who is now based in Los Angeles, has been a staple of Chicago’s experimental music scene since the mid-1990s as a member of post-rock band Tortoise, electronic band Isotope 217, and avant-jazz. Chicago Underground. Trio. He’s played funk with Meshell Ndegeocello, indie-folk with Smog and jazz with Joey DeFrancesco of Philly, and he has a haunting new electric guitar solo album, Forfolks.
Parker said he planned to perform solo and present Forfolks tracks, but instead he brought in drummer Chad Taylor, his bandmate in the Chicago Underground Trio and Quartet, who is now based in Philly. Their adventurous set sometimes featured Taylor in the lead, with slippery patterns propelling Parker’s spiky lines.
A Parker-Taylor-Gunn trio song was enticing: Taylor established a funk groove, Parker played staccato and unbalanced lines, and Gunn took the lead with scintillating acoustic guitar chords that both became increasingly prominent. brighter and denser. The collaboration has been a treat, and I hope it will continue.