The sun crawls through these early winter days like a dog stalking something off in the field, trying to pace each movement to the rhythm of its prey, hunting the horizon, low on its haunches. The moon scrambles through bare locust as an arctic cold front folds down from the northwest. It’s this time of year, when the woods are slowly falling in on themselves and the stars seem to get brighter as the temperature drops, that I inevitably meander off into the world of Steve Gunn’s “Old Strange.”
Much like how the bone-map of the forest in front of my house is laid bare with each wind gust and frost, each listen and performance of “Old Strange” reveals something — a new note or syllable or image. I like to follow this song just to see where it takes me. I track it through the snow, following its licks and riffs until the spring when it inevitably skulks off into the undergrowth. Then, in late summer, when the river’s low and the trees are all dressed up and fox are only seen in those moments when light breaks and crack, I put my hand into the dirt and feel it murmur off in the thicket…
“planted there for us all
in the dirt tall and strong”
I first fell in love with Steve Gunn’s music off a recommendation from Aquarium Drunkard. His album, Time Off, is this incredible piece of acoustic alchemy — beautifully layered mantras of guitar, bass, and drums. Each song is it’s own entity, yet they fall into each other like a ravine ecology where everything makes sense and works its way towards a stream.
“Old strange came by night
bound away outta sight
took the path through the fields
pawned away what was real…”
These fields I walk through find their form in the winter as the wildflowers die and the grass crumbles under the weight of long nights. And this song seems to find a form with each turn in season. That guitar riff is constant, building layers upon layers and then peeling back slowly, methodically until a new strange vision takes hold, old in its ability to honor what was while breaking into a new field of what is and what will be.
(Song recommendation by Michael Garrigan)