11 tracks / 50:14
Blues music can often express a songwriter’s troubles in life, and Scotland’s Andy Gunn has certainly had more than his share of misfortune over the years. He was born with a blood disorder and was given terrible diseases from transfusions in the days before doctors were vigilant about screening blood donations. He has also had cancer twice, survived a heart attack, and even had a serious scrape with the law.
But all along Andy kept playing his music, and to give back to the community he speaks out for other patients who have received tainted transfusions. He is a fine guitarist and songwriter, and his fourth album, Miracle of Healing, is a labor of love that was put together by him and producer Martin Stephenson. Stephenson took care of the acoustic guitars on this project, and he and Andy were joined in the studio by Neil Harland on bass, Kate Stephenson on drums, John Steel on keyboards, Stevie Smith on harmonica, Jim Hornsby on Dobro, and Malcolm McMaster on pedal steel. Jo Hamilton, Susanna Wolfe, and Miriam Campbell provided the backing vocals as needed.
Gunn wrote all eleven songs on this album, and there is not a lot of straight-up blues to be found, but most everything falls somewhere in the blues spectrum. The first few tracks are rhythm and blues, and they are well written pieces with good hooks. “Are We Thru” has a slick 1970s vibe with electric piano and a heavily processed lead guitar tone. Gunn has a sweet touch on the strings, and his vocals are not the most polished but they are effective. Steel’s keyboards also come into play to set up “Black Heart,” as it kicks off with a barroom piano intro before settling into an R&B groove. Lyrics for both of these tunes dwell on relationships that are going sour, but Andy writes more personal lines as the album progresses.
There are a handful of songs with country and Southern rock influences, which the band does very well. “Beyond the Open Door” has a country blues-rock feel thanks to a laid-back bass melody from Harland and restrained pedal steel from McMaster. This slow ballad is a song of hope and perseverance that talks about looking forward to better days after being dealt a few bad hands. Acoustic guitar and organ lend “Hold On” an understated southern-rock feel, and Gunn stretches his vocal range to its limits with the backing vocals providing a pretty counterpoint to his rough delivery. Later on, Andy uses Creedence Clearwater style guitar riffs combined with Smith’s harp to make for a respectable bit of swamp rock in “Trouble Women.” Adding these elements to the rock-solid backline of Harland and Stephenson makes this one of the standout tracks on the album.
The blues-rock tracks are also very listenable. “Freedom Reality” is a slow tempo tune with reflective lyrics of a man who decides to stop wondering what he could have done better, and instead decides to work on his future. The pace picks up a bit for “Harmony of One,” which adds tambourine and acoustic guitars for a more accessible feel. And the band takes a page out of the Dire Straits songbook with “Planting the Seeds” and Gunn totally nails the guitar tone. This man really can play!
Hopefully Andy Gunn will catch a few breaks and get the chance to just focus on music – he certainly has enough stories to last him for a while! Miracle of Healing is not just a catchy title for an album, it is a big part of his life and it is great that Martin Stephenson was there to help get these songs out to the masses. Gunn has some shows and festivals coming up on his schedule, so if you are going to be on the other side of the pond make sure you check his website so you can have the opportunity to support him in person.