Given his raspy delivery, spare acoustic guitar accompaniment, erudite wordplay and numerous Tom Waits videos posted on his Tumblr page, it’s easy to draw a line between Seattle singer/songwriter Noah Gundersen and the world’s most famous boho troubadour. Too easy, perhaps. To be sure, Gundersen has borrowed a few metaphorical tricks from Waits’ growling grapefruit-moon/dark-cloud playbook, but he is no mere slavish acolyte lifting riffs and taking poetic license from the master of the form.
Gundersen busks on a corner that would be familiar to fans of Nick Drake’s melancholy beauty, Ryan Adams’s raw melodic emotionalism, Dan Bern’s incisive observational skills and Neil Young’s restrained angst. And while Gundersen doesn’t necessarily sound like any of them directly, he reflects their creative spirits and has more than earned his place in their comparative company with his intimate and brutally honest style.
At an impossibly young 24, Gundersen has already been at this game for eight years, playing cafés when he was 16, teaming up with his sister Abby as an Indie Folk duo at 17 and assembling a backing band dubbed The Courage (as well as a Post Hardcore outfit called Beneath Oceans) at 18.
Gundersen self-released his debut EP, Brand New World, and Live at the Triple Door in 2008, which was followed in 2009 by the Saints & Liars EP and in 2010 by Fearful Bones, credited to The Courage (Gundersen dropped his name from the band’s appellation). In 2011, Gundersen released his compelling Family EP, which earned him song placements on Sons of Anarchy (his work had already been used on One Tree Hill and The Vampire Diaries). If that wasn’t enough, Gundersen plays guitar in Le Wrens with his siblings Abby, Elizabeth and Jonathan (their EP, Don’t Forget Me, came out last year) and he signed a deal with Dualtone to release his brilliant and powerful new full-length, Ledges, back in February.
If you want innocuous acoustic wallpaper, Gundersen is not your boy; all who enter here, prepare to be transformed.
NOAH GUNDERSEN plays Newport's Southgate House Revival Tuesday, April 29. Tickets/more info here .