Track of the Day: Steve Gunn & Mike Cooper - "Saudade Do Santos-o-Velho"


Steve Gunn released one of my favorite LPs of 2013 in Time Off. Since the first time I heard the needle drop on that record at a friend's house, I've been anxiously awaiting a follow-up. Fortunately, my wait was brief. On June 24, Gunn will release a collaboration with renowned guitarist Mike Cooper entitled Cantos de Lisboa. The LP is the 11th installment of RVNG Intl.'s phenomenal FRKWYS series, which pairs contemporary musicians with progenitors in their genre.

Mike Cooper is a chameleon who has shape-shifted his way through the last half-century. Like his contemporary Loren Connors, Cooper is another artist who has remained relevant through a willingness to float further and further into the fringe. His criminally under-appreciated 2013 LP (by myself included until recently), White Shadows In The South Seas, could serve as a master course in sculpting soundscapes. Cooper enters his twilight years as a musician whose path has sprawled into unpredictable territories since he first appeared as a blues-obsessed, teenage dropout in Reading during the heyday of the 1960s Brit-folk scene.

Like Cooper, Gunn's relative breakthrough as a solo performer occurred in contemporary folk circles, yet his back story is hardly one-dimensional. His roots reside in Philadelphia's hardcore scene, and he even served a brief stint as guitarist in Kurt Vile's Violators. In Gunn and Cooper, we find two artists decades apart painting from similar palettes on the heels of radically different releases. This is the exact formula the FRKWYS series is built upon. 

On the duo's lead-off single "Saudade Do Santos-o-Velho" it sounds as if Cooper hasn't drifted too far from the naturalistic Caribbean influences that served as the backdrop of White Shadows. Here, he sheds the ambient experimentalism to make room for Gunn's pastoral accompaniment and the geographic influences of Lisbon where Cantos de Lisboa was recorded. Though colored with touches of Portugal, the song would find itself readily at home amidst the dusty Americana of Bob Dylan's soundtrack for Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid. This first taste is an instrumental, but info on the label's website mentions Gunn's contributions on vocals elsewhere on the LP.  (Pre-order)