Twin talents operating on the outskirts of American folk music, Steve Gunn and the Black Twig Pickers are separated by both time and distance. The two share, though, a similar approach – an attitude that by rebelling against tradition the principles through which it is under-pinned can be renewed.
A work of startling intensity, new collaborative full length 'Seasonal Hire' neatly fuses the differing sounds of Steve Gunn and the Black Twig Pickers into a cohesive, intoxicating whole. Gunn's circular, meditative guitar lines are allowed to pirouette around each piece, with the Black Twig Pickers managing to conjure some astonishingly warped, weird and downright bizarre sounds from their Old Timey approach.
Opening track 'Dive For The Pearl' contains a radiant, beautiful joy with layers of guitar thrashing against a spring jaw's harp. It's almost possible to envisage rolling fields of corn, water tumbling down a Carolina waterfall or horse drifting through an Ohio meadow, such is the intensity of the atmosphere it conveys.
Steve Gunn takes a rare vocal turn on 'Trailways Ramble'; a song which in other, lesser hands could turn mawkish but retains a fresh, pastoral feel. 'Don't Let Your Deal Go Down' is enraptured by blue notes, while 'Cardinal 51' makes tremendous use of space, of emptiness, of silence as a means of projecting atmosphere.
These pieces pale, though, against the 18 minute title track. Epic in size and scope, 'Seasonal Hire' attempts to capture the turning of days, weeks and months, the body clock of the dry Earth interpreted as music. It almost succeeds, too, with the production – crisp, analogue, natural – reflected against the playing.
Always respectful of the traditions from which they emerge, Steve Gunn and the Black Twig Pickers are happy to less these sounds evolve exponentially into stunning, unforeseen vistas. A real gem.
-- Robin Murray, Clash