Discovering Steve Gunn shortly before a cross-country road-trip turned out to be excellent timing, as listening to him now has me longing for wide-open Oklahoma skies and the unending New Mexico horizons. I’ve been in a solid folk-country mode lately, underscored by classic rock like CSNY and Dylan and unknown tracks by way of random desert radio stations. But Gunn provides a modern update to all this – his guitar playing is intricate, and spacey, and worth a live performance viewing to truly appreciate. His songwriting has a definite flow, with the divisions between verse and chorus more ballad than pop, with the kind of two, two-and-half minute solos that reel in the listener and reflective, observational lyrics that give them something to chew on once they’re there.

His newest single “Conditions Wild” showcases his playing and explores a wide, open world with intrigue, albeit understated. It feels purposefully restrained, as if Gunn’s voice carrying the melody is holding back all hell from breaking loose. Diving into his back catalog reveals more of this, along with slide guitar and delay and six-minute-plus songs brimming with warm acoustic tones.

I love the space in his music, created through multiple guitar parts with meandering solos on top. Intros and outros twist and turn around every corner of a scale although, for better or worse, it seems like his newer releases are getting shorter. Overall, Gunn’s style reminds of that rambling jam-band genre with a little bit more of a literary, subdued element — he seems to indulge in the depth of a song, opting for a six-track LP on 2013’s “Time Off” in favor of six, seven minute jams. It’s fantastic road trip music, especially with the windows down and a taste of the desert breeze.

Given that Steve Gunn is as East Coast as they come (Brooklyn via PA), his music is hardly of this place that it references and suits so well, but therein lies the magic of acoustic lead guitars and big, mysterious rock music — it can be inspired by the promise of something bigger, something greater. Isn’t that what the westward journey is all about? There’s probably a lot more to be said about music that is from one place and sounds reminiscent of another, but perhaps a task for an academic or another day.

For now, I’m enjoying all the space, the slow-down, the openness. 

“Wind so bad, the woods will move
They’re hanging in the ai

Who am I?
Soon can say
Take into the young old land
It’s how he wants to rock

It’s how he wants to rock

You know it runs
The private river out
Into the night
Its fruit will help you listen
Keep you outta sight

Moon so bad the doors won’t move
They don’t seem to care
Ask so plain, the runners so forward
It’s time to move, the brave the storm
A different stop a day
Move and make your way

You know it runs
The private river out into the night
Its fruit will help you listen

Keep you outta sight.
~Wildwood
Steve Gunn, Way Out Weather