Catching Up With Steve Gunn :: Eyes on the Lines

The songs on Steve Gunn’s seventh album and Matador Records debut Eyes on the Lines don’t move straight ahead. Instead, they loop, swirl, and curl. But they do have a sense of purpose, and the driving language Gunn sprinkles across the nine songs parallel how he and his band push forward. On the album, detours aren’t distractions. Often, they’re the point.

“I was thinking about the concept of being lost, welcoming a sense of the unknown,” Gunn says via his cell from the road. Musically, the reference points carry over from his last couple of excellent outings, like the sounds of mentors and collaborators Mike Cooper and Michael Chapman, blues from Chicago and Mali, and the Basement Tapes. But on this album, there's a distinctly rock feel to the proceedings.

“When I’m coming up with stuff, we’re talking about rock & roll songs," Gunn says. "Mostly the Velvets, Stones, and Dylan, to cite three.”

Lyrically, Eyes on the Lines is devoted to the unexpected, celebrating deviations from the path, dwelling on moonlit wanderings, strange dreams, and observing the thrill that comes from finding oneself truly lost, the ultimate acknowledgment of the unknown.

On “Conditions Wild,” Gunn lyrically paraphrases from author Rebecca Solnit’s book A Field Guid to Getting Lost. “It’s a field guide from the other side, beyond the path you know,” he sings, his husky Philly baritone rolling over organ and a steady backbeat. “Feel the path and move along the traces where you’ll go.”

“It’s really an interesting book,” Gunn says of Solnit’s 2005 collection of personal and historical reflections, which helped order his thoughts about the concept of "losing oneself." “Being a creative person, you have to kind of trust this other aspect of your life, which is something you can’t explain or predict. You can’t have preconceived notions."

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