12 songs – 58 minutes
Andy Gunn is a Scottish singer-guitarist-songwriter with a pretty stark personal history, from being born with hemophilia, contracting HIV and hepatitis C as a result of receiving contaminated blood products in 1980, surviving two bouts with cancer as well as alcoholism and addiction, and most recently suffering from peripheral neuropathy (causing numbness in his hands and limiting his technical facility) during the recording of Too Many Guitars To Give Up Now.
Given the title of the album (which came from a conversation during which Gunn was asked how many guitars he actually owned – and his throwaway response became both a song title and an album title), and the fact that the cover art features a depiction of an electric guitar by New York artist, Mary Frembgen, one might assume that Too Many Guitars To Give Up Now would be big on the guitar pyrotechnics. And one would be wrong. In fact, Gunn’s new album – his third solo release and first since 2014’s Miracle Of Healing – is an uplifting collection of primarily slower-paced modern blues and blues-rock (all written by Gunn), played with both restraint and maturity.
Opening with “Misery Blues”, a flat-picked acoustic guitar is joined by Andy May’s organ as Gunn’s gentle, plaintive voice floats over the accompaniment. It’s an enticing first number and leads nicely into the Piedmont-flavoured country blues of “Let U Go” with fine support from harmonica player, Spider Mackenzie.
Aside from May and Mackenzie, at least one of whom provides backing on each song, additional help on various numbers comes from Al James on bass and Jim Walker on drums and percussion, with Liz Jones adding background vocals.
The piano-led “Sorry Mess Blues” has echoes of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, both in the minimalism of the guitar playing and the vocal nuances of Gunn’s delivery while “Back On Song” recalls some of Mark Knopfler’s gentler moments. “Battlefield Blues” features a lovely acoustic bottleneck guitar opening from Gunn before leading into another fine country blues.
The pace begins to pick up in the second half of the album with the wah-wah guitar/harp/organ instrumental, “Eidyn Shuffle”, the piano boogie of “Help You Along” and the upbeat shuffle of “Warm Heart Blues”, although there is also the slow blues of “Suffering Man’s Blues” with some fine guitar from Gunn and a very tasty organ solo from May.
The final track, the wistful “Going Home Again” is an enchanting way to close the album, especially with the melodic nod at the very end to “When The Saints Go Marching On”.
Too Many Guitars To Give Up Now is not an album for virtuoso showboating. The focus is very much on the song not the soloist (although Gunn does stretch out for a few choruses on the early rock’n’roll of the title track). It is however a collection of well-written songs, performed with real emotional commitment. There is an intimacy and warmth about the entire album that sets it apart from many other releases. Worth investigating.