Release Date: Feb 24, 2015
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Steve Gunn has made quite a name for himself over the past few years, especially with his last two records, Time Off and Way Out Weather, both issued by Paradise of Bachelors. But in all his solo success, it’s easy to forget he’s still a dynamic collaborator. He worked with Hiss Golden Messenger on Golden Gunn, recorded with Mike Cooper last year, and released Melodies for a Savage Fix, an excellent improvisation with Black Twig Pickers member Mike Gangloff.
If Steve Gunn hadn't made this record with the Black Twig Pickers, the Brooklyn virtuoso may just have been forever compared to fellow John Fahey-lovin' guitarists like James Blackshaw and William Tyler. Teaming up with the Virginia Appalachian-folk trio, Seasonal Hire finds Gunn stretching out his range, style and overall approach. While it's easy to pinpoint which party wrote what (Gunn helps pull songs into tight ragas and the Pickers help spread the bumpkin-jam thick), much of the music on this five-track EP does a magnificent job of merging each musician's strong points while bringing in unforced new song structures.
Listening to Seasonal Hire, the second collaboration between guitarist/singer/songwriter Steve Gunn and Old Dominion traditionalists the Black Twig Pickers, is like tugging at a stray thread on a sweater. It unravels with each note, loosening and losing shape, form unspooling into formlessness. "Dive for the Pearl" opens the album with a tight, hypnotic mountain reel that’s arguably the most structured performance here—a knotty tangle of banjo plucks, guitar picking, harmonica whines, and mouth harp boings.
Despite the billing, Seasonal Hire seems to reference guitarist Steve Gunn hanging his shingle on a Black Twig Pickers recording more than the other way around. Before launching his career as a solo artist, he spent his time working with everyone from Meg Baird and the Magik Markers to Kurt Vile, and he was a member of GHQ and the Gunn-Truscinski Duo, to name a few. He had also worked with the individual members of BTP before.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The Black Twig Pickers have been peddling their bold and energetic update of old-time music for over a decade now, breathing new life into the traditional tunes from the Appalachian mountains. They prefer to record live, often at home, and many of their songs are versions of American folk music from the first half of the twentieth century.
Steve Gunn is at heart a collaborator and confidant – the guy you always want playing by your side. Though the Brooklyn guitarist's recent solo records, particularly last year's brilliant Way Out Weather, have boosted his profile as a songwriter and frontman, you can find Gunn's name on nearly a decade's worth of releases where he primarily plays the role of musical co-conspirator. He's worked with drummer John Truscinski in the minimalist-psych project, the Gunn-Truscinski Duo; he's partnered with North Carolina's Hiss Golden Messenger, and more recently with British folk legend Mike Cooper, among others; he's toured with Kurt Vile and the Violators.
Somewhere way down in rural Floyd County, Virginia, lies a church whose dramatically-inclined parishioners are staging a dinner theatre production of 1960s shipwreck TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island. Nearby is an old farmhouse with an oak-lined recording studio tucked away inside. Both have tales to tell about isolation. But it’s the studio that The Black Twig Pickers invited Philly-born six and 12-string acoustic guitar wizard Steve Gunn to record Seasonal Hire.