Matt Arbogast, who we know on record as The Gunshy, has had a lot of time to confront himself during his countless hours touring the country alone in his car. In his triumphant song The Darling Days, Arbogast relates a conversation he has with himself as an old man, who, upon taking what he's learned from experience and a weathered life, he reminds our narrator of one essential thing: 'stay young.'
I Gave Too Much Time to the Wine embodies this mindset - serving as both a set of vibrant new material and as a collection of the EPs released throughout his career, it's an audio document taking stock of what's come before while still pushing forward into new, and unexplored territory. Shades and elements from his whole range of releases color the sounds found here - his spare and isolated acoustic work with its emphasis on his threadbare lyrical diary, his melodic and understated compositions, and his euphoric horn-laden full band all find a home here, showcasing the wide spectrum of his songwriting talents.
For the first time, Arbogast's range of textures and themes is fully splayed out. It bridges both the intensely intimate writing found on his early records (2002's To Remember/To Forget and 2004's No Man's Blues) with the storytelling and evocative, lyrical scene-setting from both 2005's Souls and his critically acclaimed 2007 release There's No Love in this War, which told his grandfather's story during WWII through musical adaptation of letters home from the Front. Brass instrumentation and gorgeous harmony vocals find a place at the forefront of his new material as his writing is ever-honed with time. Arbogast's songs find him sharply exploring a life on the road and the role of music in our lives, the dynamics of love and songwriting, and meditations on a life lived simply. He also delivers a stunning reading of excellent-but-unheralded songwriter Andrew Bryant's I Won't Forget It.
Besides the new work that opens this album, also included are the out of print small-pressing EPs that have appeared briefly between The Gunshy's larger records - transitional works, shorter story arcs, but in some ways even more immediate and direct that their longer brethren. Nowhere will you find Arbogast's singing voice more restrained and melodic than on My Home It Shall No Longer Be the Sea (recorded in 2006), nor will you find him more openly candid than on What Will They Speak of You When You're Gone? (recorded in 2004). This is a exceptional collection - a perfect starting point for those new to the recorded works of The Gunshy, a solid collection of new material for the initiated, and a valuable opportunity for fans who missed those fantastic eps when they were briefly available. In straddling the line between what's come before and blazing a trail for what's to follow, this proves to be an essential release.