It’s been a long time since The Gunshy has been in the studio, to the point I just assumed that Matt Arbogast had called it a day. Days move on, responsibilities begin to add up, and the road becomes a less attractive companion. Gradual retirement is not a new story.
Then, out of nowhere a humble email telling of a finished record, a refreshed focus and dedication.
And while it’s easy to classify Silent Songs as a return, I see it more as a celebration. A heart felt love letter to music and what it has given Arbogast (and letting go of what its taken from him too). There is genuine inspiration and salvation in these songs. The disappointment of seeing peers pack it in is real, but so is the joy he takes from the memories, the tours and people he’s met. He’s as excited as he is reflective. This is a look back at the last ten years, but it’s also an artist being able to exist entirely in the moment, unfazed by the state of music or what the future will bring.
Arbogast, in a self deprecating moment, once sang “that fucker sounds just like Tom Waits, do we need another Tom Waits” and while his gravely voice obviously fits into the same range as Waits, there is little else of similarity this time around. He doesn’t grab a bullhorn or add thumping percussion for appeal, and to me, Silent Songs is as far removed from the that easy comparison as gravelly voiced Canadian emcee, Rich Terfy.
In reality, the full band feel of these songs is a reinvention of The Gunshy sound. It’s as much punk rock as a solitary, bar room prophet. Gang vocals, triumphant horns, swells of strings and a quickened pace all give these songs a more vibrant finish. Arbogast can still pen delicate finger picked ballads (“Getting High in Denver” / “Ten Years”) but it’s the energetic, raw numbers that really define this LP.
Arbogast has found a new sound, a new well of creativity from which he can draw. Silent Songs a manifesto of sorts, a reason to keep singing, writing, and touring. A reason to keep living and keep loving. We all need to reason to keep the blood coursing through our veins, and search for the cause that makes us willing to let our blood stain the fields of battle. Arbogast’s cause may be humble, but it’s certainly noble and worthy.
Silent Songs is available as a PWYC download now, and will be out on vinyl on September 27.