A1 “Water Wheel” 5:10
A2 “Lurker” 7:43
A3 “Street Keeper” 5:44
B1 “New Decline” 5:25
B2 “Old Strange” 7:01
B3 “Trailways Ramble” 8:54
In the city we’re all angling for Quittin’ Time, laboring along and among the hours, searching and scheming for the sweet sound of those two easy words: Time Off. It’s something you take—or sometimes steal, like a thief or a baserunner—but seems you can never get enough of it. It’s regulated, rationed, and billed by volume, like water or electricity or ice cream. Sometimes you have to beg the boss for more, or even for a trifling taste. So let’s make time! Let’s roll the dice and get these old bones out on the road again.
Steve Gunn’s new album imagines the fugitive moments afforded us during time off, out, and away as occasions for dilatory investigations into our immediate environments and interiors. Time Off (PoB-08) showcases the virtuosic guitarist and songwriter’s oblique character sketches and story-songs, some of which, like “Lurker” and “Street Keeper,” portray specific denizens of his Brooklyn neighborhood. “Old Strange” celebrates Jack Rose, a dear and departed friend and muse.
Those contemplative studies frame Gunn’s most affecting, accessible and articulate work of pure songcraft to date. His definitive statement as a songwriter, Time Off represents the culmination of nearly fifteen years of stylistic experimentation as a solo artist, a member of GHQ and the Gunn-Truscinski Duo, and more recently, as a guitarist in fellow Philadelphia-bred troubadour Kurt Vile’s touring band the Violators.
Gunn’s first eponymous album with a full band, Time Off harnesses a core trio format to launch his compositions into new, luminous strata; the songs have evolved through disciplined trio interplay with longtime collaborator John Truscinski on drums and Justin Tripp (formerly of Aspera and Favourite Sons) on bass and guitar. Helena Espvall (Espers) also guests on cello. Steve’s keen baritone voice features more prominently than ever before on these tunes, each of which feels both more rigorous and expansive than previous efforts.
Here, Gunn the guitarist masterfully deploys the discursive, deconstructed blues style, at once transcendent and methodical, that has become his signature. Close listening reveals the influence of Delta and Piedmont country blues, ecstatic free jazz, and psych, as well as Gnawa and Carnatic music, on the continually unfolding compositions. The fresh emphasis on narrative, characters in counterpoint, and those heavy-duty vocals likewise recall the finest work of Steve’s friend and sometime touring partner, Michael Chapman.
Building on his established penchant for charting musical travelogues that ramble through city and wilderness alike, these dispatches about home are not merely descriptive but corporeal. Gunn’s evocative writing and ductile instrumental phrasing, buttressed by the band’s intuitive playing, carries the listener along bodily for the “Trailways Ramble.” It’s a real collection of foot-tappers and head-nodders, perfect for summer sessions.
The album opens with the sublime, meditative “Water Wheel”—a paean to “the water wheel’s constant turn/open views and days to burn”—and indeed Time Off sounds as if Steve has swum full circle to reach the headwaters of his musical practice. This is Gunn at the top of his game, utterly unique but steeped in traditions both vernacular and avant-garde. Jump in.
- Steve Gunn’s first album with a band, featuring John Truscinski and Justin Tripp
- His most affecting, accessible, and articulate work of pure songcraft to date, with a new emphasis on vocals
- Available on virgin vinyl, in a deluxe, limited edition, as well as on CD and digital formats (all purchases from this website include a link for immediate download of the entire album)
- Vinyl edition features matte, tip-on jacket, full-color inner sleeve, and digital download coupon
- CD housed in heavy matte gatefold wallet
- Package features artwork by Anthony Campuzano, Constance Mensh, and Justin Tripp
* Recognized as one of the best albums of 2013 by The Washington Post, Uncut, Urban Outfitters, Aquarium Drunkard, The Wire, Buzzfeed, Other Music, Yo La Tengo, and PopMatters, among others.
“As contemporary songwriters surf rivers of blood, sweat and tears, hoping the world will take notice, this Brooklynite plays circular folk songs that unfold as effortlessly as a breath. The fact that he’s making no special bid to be heard means we might want to listen especially close… His colorful songs radiate handsomely and effortlessly, like Appalachian mandalas. A suite of cosmic folk songs that feel highly intricate and effortlessly propulsive, like Robbie Basho sitting in with the Doors.”
- Chris Richards, Washington Post (#10 album of the year)
“Some examples of historical gamechangers are Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, Radiohead’s Kid A, and Scott Walker’s Tilt. We may soon be adding to this list the new album by New York-based guitarist Steve Gunn, whose Time Off finds the formerly ubiquitous psychedelic journeyman exploring traditional songwriting through a prism of airy blues, ambling jazz-folk, and subtle but virtuosic guitar dreamweaving. For starters, imagine the Dead’s “Bird Song” performed by guys who know all the Sun City Girls records by heart. Not so much an about-face as a panoramic zooming-out, Time Off should introduce Gunn’s beguiling music to an entire new audience even as it retains the spirit and the logic of his earliest and most experimental work.”
- James Toth (Wooden Wand), Aquarium Drunkard
7.9. “A collection of six loose, spiraling guitar songs that give more than they ask: These are generous compositions, gently presented. Gunn’s a descendent of the Dead, but also of J.J. Cale and La Monte Young and Bert Jansch and Frank Hutchinson, and his guitar playing has a mesmeric quality, a tender circling that feels almost like being swaddled. There’s an unrefined, organic quality to Gunn’s work… a reinterpretation of “Americana” that allows for plenty of ingenuity (and requires no costuming). While Gunn’s produced some more explicitly cerebral work, Time Off’s biggest asset is its ease. It’s also a record that happens to make tremendous sense right now, on the precipice of summer, when we’re all anxious to uncurl a little.”
- Amanda Petrusich, Pitchfork
“Time Off is Gunn’s finest work yet. He’s radically matured as a storyteller—you can hear the authority in his voice on vagrant anthem “Lurker.” He’s also victoriously united his past musical selves, as evident on “Old Strange,” which starts with a hypnotic acoustic phrase but swerves into a “Bron-Y-Aur” jam. Then there are the new things the trio format makes possible, like the stomping, bluesy “New Decline,” where Gunn rips an electric solo while his band secures the groove. It’s one of the year’s most powerful folk-rock statements.”
- Elliott Sharp, The Village Voice
“In the John Fahey-inspired, post-Jack Rose world of American-primitive-folk-meets-blues-meets-raga-meets-noise music, Gunn is quite simply the best, and he has a way of capping off an entire song’s worth of anecdotal finger-picking with the last-minute, bone-chilling, entry of his voice, hinting at a rare talent for songwriting without overstating it… Time Off is a collection of six summery psych-rock songs—led, firstly, by Gunn’s impressionistic, minutely detailed fretwork, and secondly by his stone-smooth baritone, which lends a kind of metaphysical weight to whatever he happens to be singing about.
- Emilie Friedlander, The Fader
9 stars. “Haunted narratives interspersed with kaleidoscopic episodes of vertiginous acoustic fingerpicking. Those guitars etch bluesy energy lines and an aura around Gunn’s weary delivery, riding grooves that reconcile the casual shuffling of prime J.J. Cale with the graceful cadences of Brit-folk eclectics Fotheringay. There’s no flashiness here, but a slow-burning passion makes this record smoke.”
- Bill Meyer, Magnet
“Gunn is blessed with a voice as warm and rich as Tim Buckley or a young Van Morrison. Cycling riffs build a self-sustaining momentum, immersing the listener in a private river of sound.”
- Nick Southgate, The Wire
8/10. “His tunes unfurl like bales of wire rolling down country roads. Generically, it’s improbable: progressive folk, with psychedelic swirls, delivered with so much confidence that it sounds like dispassion. At times it’s like an architectural drawing. But the repetitions soothe and tease, and then you start to hear the leaves.”
- Alastair McKay, Uncut
4.5/5. “The vibe often seems akin to Bull’s Demolition Derby or the ensemble pieces on Fahey’s The Yellow Princess, reimagined with a thin reflection of Skip Spence at the helm. But it’s unfair to say that Gunn is mining the past; rather, he comes out of a tradition that is easily traced to the 1960s, when folksy fantasias received the support of limber rock rhythm sections. What’s particularly exciting about this disc is the possibility that lies in Gunn’s interleaving of timeless songs and allover “time” — few of his influences and even fewer of his peers have searched in this direction… One of the most gorgeously effective “side one, track ones” in recent memory (or the other phrase critics may be loath to use, ‘summer jam.’)”
-Clifford Allen, Tiny Mix Tapes
“Either a fine album, or a very solid homemade time machine. I honestly cannot tell whether this record is something that was just recorded recently or if it’s a newly unearthed lowered-fidelity private-press basement-folk gem by some beardy dudes from the Santa Rosa area in June of 1973. Either way, it’s great. The songs are luminous, blooming, meditative chants; they have simple, sweetly-mumbled vocal melodies with a low word count. The whole production is just beautiful, without being the slightest bit precious. Gunn’s playing has a humble, searching, spiritual quality, calling over time through repetition. He’s a confident, insightful, and incredibly subtle player. His technique is strong and he’s able to incorporate it into his songwriting so naturally. In every second of this record, particularly during the soloing, you can feel the group listening to each other and moving together… If you are a fan of folk music, Happy End’s Kazemachi Roman, Jerry Garcia’s Garcia, Sun City Girls’ Torch of the Mystics or other records where people play guitars, or songs and music in general, or if you hate folk music, then that’s great. I can’t really think of anybody who wouldn’t be pretty into this excellent record.”
- James McNew (Yo La Tengo), The Talkhouse
“He’s a guitarist of uncommon soulfulness and melodic grace. If he were coming of age 45 years earlier in Britain, he’d be contending with Bert Jansch, Michael Chapman, and John Renbourn for pastoral psych-folk supremacy. The songs on Gunn’s new album Time Off plunge so deeply into that folk-blues vein it becomes a kind of sacred psychedelia. They do what so many other American bands do, but somehow Gunn and company’s take on folky blues resonates way more strongly than that of their peers. They show how Americana should sound: raw, fluid, grave, stirring, and rolling on a seemingly eternal ramble. Gunn’s non-histrionic voice is the ideal forlorn, wistful foil to the glistening streams of salubrious, post-Fahey sound.”
- Dave Segal, The Stranger
“The album neatly ties together two strands of Gunn’s previous work — the expansive, improvisatory guitar-drum jams of the Gunn-Truscinksi Duo and the more song-based approach of 2009′s masterful Boerum Palace. The guitarist leads his rhythm section through a set of tunes that nod in the direction of the Grateful Dead, JJ Cale, and Neil Young without feeling remotely retro. The interplay here is marvelous; Truscinksi and Tripp can choogle like nobody’s business, but with the lightness and dynamics of jazz players, leaving Gunn free to weave intricate webs of layered acoustic and electric guitars. The album rocks, to be sure, but never relies on volume for its inherent heaviness… Time Off captures a musician at the top of his game. Gunn’s aim is true.”
- Tyler Wilcox, Aquarium Drunkard
Intones from many traditions (American, Indian, British, Gnawan) and gives the illusion that that the trio just cooked it all up overnight. Get chooglin’.
- Lars Gotrich, NPR Music
“Like his buddy and bandmate Kurt Vile, Brooklyn singer-guitarist Steve Gunn seems beamed from a different time. He plays a worldly form of ancient blues. He sings with a little bit of vintage Mick Jagger on his tongue. He unravels stories with a level of patience and detail often lacking in contemporary music, be it of folksy origin or otherwise.”
- Chris Martins, Spin
“Immediately arresting… haunted by anything from Delta blues and 70s electric Brit-folk to Michael Chapman and the Tim Hardin/Buckley school of jazzy sonic drift. If this is acid folk, this beautifully-packaged artifact should be goosing the landmarks.”
- Kris Needs, Shindig!
“If I’d had the time/guts to put my favourites of 2013 list into some order, I suspect Steve Gunn’s Time Off would’ve come out pretty near the top… Gunn is a guitarist, based in New York, who’s emerged from and more or less transcended the post-Takoma scene in the past few years. Unlike some of his contemporaries, he has a languid but sure grasp on songforms, a nonchalant way of deploying immense technical virtuosity, and a wide, questing range. All of this feeds elegantly and effortlessly into Time Off.”
- John Mulvey, Uncut
“On Time Off, Gunn ups the songwriting ante, rounding out his already imposing skill set. In fact, at this point, he may be better than anyone else at summing up his hard-won niche. He has a firm grasp on a wide array of musical roots, binding them together to form multifaceted folk-rock that’s as adventurous as it is innately accessible… He’s a master of mood and a sonic shapeshifter, capable of splicing graceful Takoma-style picking with the bleary mysticism of Indian ragas or trapping explosions of free jazz melody in layers of savory psych-rock scuzz. His instrumental command is singular and enthralling, able to unlock redemptive beauty from within fuzz-fueled semi-cacophony or entrance entire concert halls with winding acoustic gems.”
- Jordan Lawrence, Blurt
“Gunn is a guitarist of wide interests and skillful versatility, whether it be early blues traditions like Piedmont or Delta styles, American Primitive, Indian music, psych, Gnawan, etc. He seeks out what inspires him then masters it… This band is tight. They weave Americana, folk, blues, psych, improvisation, drone, and more into Time Off… Time Off contains great songs. It’s warm, spacious, sophisticated, and elastic. Gunn is at a creative peak here; can’t wait for more.”
- Thom Jurek, AllMusic
“Time Off is one of the key records of the current traditional rock revival, a lasting testament to Gunn’s tireless efforts and extraordinarily rapid growth as a performer and songwriter.”
- Max Burke, Ad Hoc (“Our Favorite Albums of 2013.5”)
“Spare and hypnotic as a campfire sing-along, it suspends the listener in a pleasant in-between state where time doesn’t exist. Much of the album radiates a quiet power… giving us the feeling of being outside at night, communing with the sounds of the deep forest.”
- Allison Kirkland, eMusic
“I use (probably overly so) descriptions like “vision quest” to talk about Gunn’s music, but that seriously is how it feels – like you’re on a journey with this man, the notes vibrating off of his six strings and the wearied but poignant words coming out of his mouth.”
- John Vettese, WXPN The Key
“Time Off is a refreshing reminder that trying a different angle, a new approach, or trying out a new voice (quite literally in Gunn’s case), is where the interesting music happens.”
- Rich Hughes, The Liminal
“Gunn proffers the kind of simultaneously abstract and concrete melodies as contemporaries like Glenn Jones, James Blackshaw and Jack Rose, but adds a rhythm section, lyrics and his own lightly toned vocal chords for a hypnotic atmosphere that’s almost mystical.”
-Michael Toland, Blurt
“Even though Steve Gunn calls New York home, he sounds like a ramblin’ man. Whether on his own or in collaboration with a host of well-traveled keepers of the avant-garde, Gunn has used the last 15 years to detail the Mississippi Delta, the Appalachian Mountains, and the vast expanses of heartland in a uniquely (de)constructed American travelogue… Without compromising the shrugged off and slurred out quality that made his songs endearing in the first place, Gunn has casually moved toward crystalline songcraft. His latest LP, Time Off, is his most tuneful yet.”
- Colin Joyce, Consequence of Sound
“A milestone for Gunn’s already expansive discography.”
- Ben Schenkel, In Your Speakers
“Gunn combines jazz, blues, folk, and Americana into a patchwork of disparate influences that still manage to feel distinctly him.”
- Kate Bracaglia, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Time Off sees the Lansdowne native expertly weaving his experiences with raga, blues, folk, jazz and rock into a vibrant tapestry that reveals more and more of its intricacies over time. It’s a crock-pot of American tradition, world travels, characters, moments and ideas that seem both familiar and new; it’s an homage to what music has been, is and could be. His is a realm of genre confluence that innately desires experimentation, discovery and adventure while demanding an exact ability to work within rigid boundaries: chords, keys and tone. And Gunn’s efforts have always been precise, even in their most free-form, avant-garde moments.”
- Julie Miller, WXPN
“Astounding and mesmerising in equal dollops; take the journey to a psychedelic Delta blues of Steve Gunn’s world. This is head music of a higher order and demands headphones to appreciate the true talent at work… A psychedelic blues ride that hasn’t been heard since the heady days of Grateful Dead.”
- Martyn Coppack, Echoes and Dust
“Time Off is Gunn’s first proper LP with a “band” and oh boy is it good. “Lurker” burns bright like an American Beauty b-side with shimmering acoustics and a wandering electric solo sealing the deal. This song absolutely KILLS it for seven minutes, leaving the listener both beauty-ful and stoned. “Street Keeper” has a nice late ’60s/’70s baroque vibe — maybe Left Banke? Moby Grape? — while “New Decline” riffs on the road-weary chug of Boogie with Canned Heat. Everything on here is superb and sounds like that classic Americana record you’ve been waiting for this year. It’s Gunn’s vision come to life! Slide guitars, in-the-pocket playing, and thoughtful singing. An instant classic, Time Off may sound like it came from the early-’70s, but is one of the best of 2013.Take this one on your next road trip!”
-Ryan Naideau, Other Music
“His most accomplished record to date. This stuff meditates and digs, with slow rotations, grinding through the dusty surfaces it creates. As exploratory as they are well-defined, the songs move flawlessly from one sweet, earthen track to the next. In a world of people buying pre-holed jeans and worn-looking shoes, Time Off is the sound of Gunn slowly, surely wearing away at the denim, kicking up his own cloud of dust.”
- Matthew Fiander, PopMatters
“At once gorgeous and deceptively bizarre. Spotlighting his vocals for the first time, it feels instantly timeless, fusing historically American musical forms with a production aesthetic that’s neither nostalgic nor contemporary.”
- Joe Bucciero, Ad Hoc
Gunn, a musical polyglot, here works in the vernacular of the quieter parts of the American South, imbuing a little urbanity to sleepy Appalachian twang… and helical progressions. Its bucolic, rollicking folk recalls The Grateful Dead, but its innate granularity — its players, remember, are avant-garde guns-for-hire — defies any tendency toward granola gaudiness. And while the connections to Southern California country-rock are intrinsic (the pysch-tinged vamp of “Street Keeper” suggests American Beauty, and the extended boogie of “New Decline” is directly descendent of Creedence’s choogle), Gunn’s playing on Time Off owes just as much to British folk-blues — Bert Jansch, certainly; side B of Led Zeppelin III, definitely; maybe even a little Nick Drake. Gunn’s luxurious guitar work — buoyed by Tripp and Truscinski’s knack for groove — and densely detailed workouts are so entrancing that they seem to fly by quickly.
- Patrick Wall, Dusted Magazine
Gunn’s loose playing style is entirely his own, with hints dropped as to some of his favorites. Along with Fahey at his most accessible, Gunn’s deft playing evokes equal parts Jorma Kaukonen, Neil Young and John Cale, without ever swaying too far into any camp. Gunn’s backwoods six and twelve string acoustics finger-picking lays the backbone for these six jams, most of which also feature his electric mastery and his plaintive vocal melodies. Like the best multitrack–or just multi-instrument–recordings of the American Primitivism golden age, all parts of Time Off move in tandem and harmony.
- Frontier Psychiatrist
“Time Off is the kind of record that patiently waits for you to catch up to it, and when you eventually do, it creeps into your consciousness, due to his evocative six-string work as much as the meditative tone the record sustains throughout.”
- Gary Canino, BOMB Magazine
“Yet another defining masterpiece courtesy of the peerless North Carolina record label Paradise of Bachelors. Time Off sees Gunn create some of the most vital music of recent times.”
- Craig Carry, Fractured Air
“Gunn clearly understands the trance music of Morocco but brings that groove into a world of folk-blues. A coherent but deliberately low-key collection which should resonate as much with old Bert Jansch, Davey Graham and JJ Cale followers as a few Fleet Foxes fans.”
- Graham Reid, The New Zealand Herald
“At times a sense of disbelief overwhelms you that Gunn has crushed the feat of transcending one’s influences to create a referential acoustic folk-guitar led set without the hulking derivative traps many fall to.”
- Jeremy Cargill, Shindig!
“The album’s six tunes stretch out to fill nearly 40 minutes with patient, dappled, semi-acoustic drone-folk jams, Gunn’s modestly masterful American Primitivist roots commingling with raga undertones, bottleneck blues and a loose Grateful Dead vibe. Preternaturally warm and blissful.”
-K. Ross Huffman, Philadelphia Citypaper
“Steve Gunn’s guitar playing is undoubtedly original, though his languorous fingerpicking style brings up John Fahey comparisons, for sure, not to mention Nick Drake. But Gunn is actually hooky, with the sweet, twinkling guitar figure from “Lurker” sustaining itself for nearly six unbroken minutes after the intro.”
- Dan Weiss, Spin
“The first thing that strikes you about this album is how Mr. Gunn’s guitar sounds like rays of sunshine. Time Off is a gentle heat haze of acoustic joy and pleases easily.”
- Was Ist Das?
“If you think all the golden singer-songwriter albums can only be pilfered from your father’s collection, think again.”
- OMG Vinyl