Inspired by fellow Canadian Lenny Breau, guitarist Jeff Gunn draws on jazz, flamenco, and Travis-style fingerpicking to tell a series of impressionist stories on his second solo album, Sonic Tales. While flamenco-derived golpes propel Gunn’s oblique narratives, harp-like harmonics shimmer like stars in the night sky to point the way ahead. It’s celestial navigation—with guitar.
True to its title, “Beginnings” bursts out of the gate with tumbling rasgueado strumming and percussive effects that suggest enigmatic spirit-tapping. On “Luminescence,” spiraling glissandos alternate with climbing chords that reference the post-bop piano of Breau influence Bill Evans. A cascade of harmonics on the evocative “Starlight on a Winter’s Evening” jangles like the tintinnabulations of wind chimes caught in a sudden gust. Before the tune settles into a bouncy jazz melody swept along by legato picking, Gunn’s tricky time-signature-shifting strum on “Wonder” might make you wonder if the disc you’re playing is skipping.
Two songs veer outside of Gunn’s chosen lane of haunting harmonics coupled with rippling percussion. A collaboration of three guitarists, “Universal Jam” entwines Gunn’s syncopated cross-picking with James Bryan’s jauntily strummed acoustic and Mark Pelli’s elastic bent-note electric lead. Gunn’s straightforward plangent picking propels the traditional Scottish tune “Loch Lomond.” Then, suddenly, bright harmonics pinwheel like energy from the Big Bang radiating out into space. With this nod to both the down-home and the cosmic, Gunn concludes his series of tales that evoke memories, mystery, and imagination.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.