Wild Mercury Sound

Steve Gunn/Black Twig Pickers: "Natch 1"

Steve Gunn/Black Twig Pickers: "Natch 1"
John Mulvey

First things first: you can grab this one for free right now, by heading over to http://natchmusic.tumblr.com. As you’ll see there from the Tumblr’s subtitle, this marvellous Steve Gunn/Black Twig Pickers session is the first in a series of “collaborative recordings from Black Dirt Studio”; Black Dirt being a facility in upstate New York that’s birthed a bunch of superb records in the past few years.

Looking through the list of Jason Meagher’s clients at Black Dirt, the place seems to have become a kind of operations base for a certain exploratory, intuitive music that sits somewhere between the cosmic and the downhome: the “ Blues Control and Laraaji jam that’s been my default listening for the last few months was made here, as were albums by the whole NNCK/D Charles Speer/Hans Chew family, and plenty by Jack Rose and his affiliates – among them, of course, Steve Gunn and the Black Twig Pickers

I wrote about the “ Gunn-Truscinki Duo album, “Ocean Parkway” , recently, but “Natch 1” is quite a different beast. There are three tracks, perhaps the most predictable being the opener, “Sally In The Garden Shifting Sand”, which has all the giddy, mystical roots energy of a typical Black Twig Pickers jam (here’s “ something I wrote about a live show a while back). Similarities, too, with the record they did with Jack Rose.

“Old Strange”, though, takes the session someplace else, with vocals by - I’m reasonably sure – Steve Gunn (There seems the very faint possibility I actually saw him play it solo when he visited London supporting Purling Hiss last year). This one’s a weathered, dreamlike, moaning blues-raga that my wife last night suggested had something of West Africa about it. Amazing piece of music, and my favourite thing of the last week or so.

The last track is brilliant, too, though, being a thoughtful, engrossing 20-odd minute improvisation called “Salted Caramel” that, among other things, exposes the Black Twig Pickers’ roots in the mighty folk psychedelicists, Pelt. Finding it kind of extraordinary that music of this richness and calibre is available for free, and plenty more seems to be on the way: “Natch 2” with Dave Shuford, Margot Bianca and Pigeons is apparently coming soon, too.

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