Seasonal Hire – Steve Gunn and Black Twig Pickers – Review by Tim Moss
Seasonal Hire is not a sequel to Way Out Weather, but instead a re-piecing of a prior project which dates back to a 2013 release Lonesome Valley (which in turn dates back to the 2011 Hopscotch Festival in North Carolina). Like that record, Seasonal Hire feels like telekinesis-fuelled jam session in a log cabin somewhere near the filming of Into the Wild.
What’s interesting about that prior record is the marketing; thanks to the wide-spread acclaim Gunn received for Way out Weather, less attention has been given to his collaborators. Undeservedly so, as The Black Twig Pickers share equal vocal and songwriting responsibilities with Gunn; they are in no way a backing band. It is the Twig Pickers’ recording process, without overdubs or amplifications, which dictate the path of the record.
Gunn fits into this, retreating away from country and the whirling guitars of his Kurt Vile roots and into deep folk territory. But it’s not devoid of Gunn’s character, who counts Indian ragas in his pool of influences. Such quasi-Hindustanti plucking can be heard in the closing epic composition, Seasonal Hire, which fuses this set of old time influences with another more traditional to their Appalachian roots.
On the whole, Seasonal Hire is a more playful country record than Gunn’s more solemn aesthetic. But it never strays into Soggy Bottom Boys territory of cringe-worthily permeating lyrics and knee-slapping tomfoolery. From the escalating violins of Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down to the trembling banjos of Trailways Ramble, in just under forty minutes, the LP manages a hypnotic quality without droning too hard.
Anyone with experience of Gunn’s career could observe his strongest pieces stem from his more stringent departures of styles, I count Time Off’s solo heavy compositions and Way Out Weather’s ethereal country lullabies. Seasonal Hire seems a worthy addition.
01. Dive For The Pearl
02. Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down
03. Cardinal 51
04. Trailways Ramble
05. Seasonal Hire