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With the expansive discography Dave Gunning’s got under his belt, he’s managed to boil folk music down to a science. Each new release tweaks and adds to the formula. His newest album, Up Against The Sky, is a shining result of years of experience. Gunning spends ten tracks perfectly capturing the human experience in all of its facets – life and love and loss.
The mood encompassing this album is definitely bittersweet. Gunning weaves several stories involving memories of the past. Some of them are clearly treasured memories – “Ferris Wheel” is a track that revolves around a single carnival ride with somebody special. It’s an upbeat track, and the cheeky nature of some of the lyrics is a nice reflection of young love. “Nothing On Me” is another fun track in which Gunning boasts of his clean-cut past.
Other songs have a decidedly haunting tone. “The Loyal Fisherman” is a harrowing tale about the infidelity of a fisherman’s wife and the ensuing fallout. Despite how dark it is, the storytelling aspect is a lyrical high point of the album.
Regardless of the subject matter, Gunning excels at crafting lyrics that are simply real. There’s really nothing generic about the things he sings about. Even if you can’t relate to what he’s singing about, he manages to make even the most specific experience seem universal. “Celebrate the Crop” contains subject matter that is far from broad, but Gunning sings it so earnestly. He paints an image so clear that you fill as if you’re there.
All of the stories and messages on this album are delivered in Gunning’s warm and comforting croon, but he’s adept at changing his tone just so, enough to completely change the feel of a song. Melodically, his range doesn’t really reach any crazy or unexpected extremes. Emotionally, there’s no stopping the depths and heights he can reach.