Essential New Music: Gunn-Truscinski Duo’s “Soundkeeper”

Steve Gunn has spent quite a bit of the last decade establishing himself as a singer, songwriter and bandleader, and his last solo album, 2019’s The Unseen In Between, showed just how far he’s come. But before he climbed that mountain, Gunn was already a compelling guitarist, and sometimes you just want to hear him show what he can do. There’s no better situation in which to do just that than on his strings ‘n’ skins duo with John Truscinski. Not only is the drummer—and, on this record, synthesizer player—a splendid musician in his own right, the two men have a mind-meld that transcends mere instrumental compatibility. 

Take “Northwest,” which is tucked away at the end of the second side of this double LP. The way Gunn floats acoustic slide licks and squalling feedback over Truscinski’s pulsing electronic drone creates a headspace that reaches both backward into the roots of the blues and forward toward wherever you’re headed next, inviting listeners to fill the imaginary space between them with their own personal narrative. This isn’t just a jam, but a convergence of inspirationally selected sounds that can unlock the story of your life.

As befits a record that takes you places, Soundkeeper doesn’t stay anywhere for long. “Ocean City” is as languid a sonic sunset as Santo & Johnny ever dreamed, and “Distance” dives deep into the realm of those mermen that Hendrix told us about. This music is well matched to long-haul journeys, which may be why Three Lobed Recordings selected it to inaugurate its series of releases celebrating the label’s 20th year. Coming up are new volumes by Daniel Bachman, Sunburned Hand Of The Man, Six Organs Of Admittance, Body/Head and Sonic Youth.

—Bill Meyer