Steve Gunn’s aptly named Time Off has the sleepy, contented feel of summer vacation. Spare and hypnotic as a campfire sing-along, it suspends the listener in a pleasant in-between state where time doesn’t exist. “Wagon Wheel,” the opening song, is a folksy rollick, leading into the contemplative “Lurker,” which flows forth with the ease of sunlight through a window. Gunn’s rhythmic guitar picking anchors his soft, meandering vocal, and much of the album radiates a quiet power, the notes easy, but confidently strummed, the steady beat like the clomp of heavy boots down a familiar dirt path.
But it’s not all breezy and bright; don’t mistake this album as lacking in depth. Just when we think we can get comfortable and kick off our shoes, a minor-key melancholy sets in on “Old Strange,” giving us the feeling of being outside at night, communing with the sounds of the deep forest. The sturdy drone of the last song, the instrumental, “Trailways Rumble,” leaves us unsettled and wanting more: The listener is still caught in the in-between, but now it’s a fever dream, the purgatory between asleep and awake.