Steve Gunn – Eyes on the Lines


If it’s accepted dogma that Jerry Garcia and Lou Reed symbolize opposing poles along the rock spectrum, then the astonishing music of Steve Gunn reminds us we live in remarkable times. A prolific recording artist, Gunn moves up to the majors (well, Matador Records) with Eyes on the Lines, which makes a powerful case for the enduring resonance of guitar-based classic rock. Jerry and Lou represent the unexpected touchstones for Gunn’s mission. From the Grateful Dead, his music draws its gentle buoyancy, an exploration and variation of song form, and the primacy of soloing; from Reed, Gunn takes a predilection for musical understatement, repetition, and a zen-like appreciation of guitar tone. The result is something a lot of us can use, it turns out: jam band music for people who can’t stand jam bands.

One reason why this music succeeds, despite how it traffics in what might seem like an uncool, old-fashioned style, is how it captures Gunn’s surrender to the moment. The sense of ‘now’ comes across not so much in the soloing, although that never feels histrionic or labored here (no talking wah-wah pedals!), as in the layers of rhythm guitar that coat these tracks. Take “Ancient Jules”: informed by folk and blues, the riffing by Gunn and bandmate James Elkington imbues the song with a sensation of elemental motion. Not surprisingly, nature is a recurring lyrical theme on Eyes on the Lines. Gunn and his nimble accompanists seem to find inspiration in the rhythms of ocean tides and passing landscapes.

For all his years as a guitarist’s guitarist, Gunn is a relative newcomer on lead vocals, with a serviceable, non-descript tenor that might bore some listeners wanting a more charismatic presence. Stick with the album anyway, as it rewards listeners’ continued attention. As he gets namechecked alongside Kurt Vile, the War on Drugs, and others indie rockers diving into classic rock styles, Eyes on the Lines distinguishes Steve Gunn as the most musically accomplished of this cohort and offers his most assured work yet.


Eyes on the Lines comes out June 3 on Matador Records.

June 9 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
June 11 – Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo
June 13 – New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
June 14 – Houston, TX @ Rudyard’s
June 15 – Austin, TX @ Sidewinder
June 16 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links Deep Ellum
June 17 – Little Rock, AR @ Stickyz Rock ‘N Roll Chicken Shack
June 18 – St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
June 19 – Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room
June 20 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry
June 21 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
June 23 – Chicago, IL @ Schuba’s
June 24 – Detroit, MI @ Marble Bar
June 25 – Toronto, ON @ The Great Hall
June 26 — Montreal, QC @ La Vitrola
June 28 – Portsmouth, NH @ 3S Artspace
June 29 – Allston, MA @ The Great Scott
June 30 – Port Chester, NY @ Garcia’s
July 9 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
July 10 – Washington, DC @ The Black Cat
July 11 – Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern
July 12 – Raleigh, NC @ Kings
July 13 – Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight
July 14 – Nashville, TN @ Exit / IN
July 15 – Decatur, GA @ Eddie’s Attic
July 16 – Birmingham, AL @ Sloss Music & Arts Festival
July 17 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle
July 26-27 – Big Sur, CA @ Woodsist
August 6 – Livingston Manor, NY @ Catskill Brewery
September 21 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
September 22 – Spokane, WA @ The Bartlett
September 23 – Vancouver, BC @ Fortune Sound Club
September 24 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
September 28 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
September 30 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
October 1 – San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
October 3 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot
October 4-5 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
October 9 – Millvale, PA @ Mr. Small’s Theatre