Bozeman’s Chris Cunningham has a fifth solo effort out; it’s an EP with songs from the past and present, which he produced at his studio, Basecamp Recording. Cunningham is best known as half of acclaimed acoustic duo Storyhill, with John Hermanson, in a career that spans 25 years, 15 albums, and national tours and appearances at major folk festivals.
There are no less than 11 musicians rallying to the cause here, including John Sanders, Chris Cundy, Drew Fleming, Clay Green, and Justin Roth, to name a few, fleshing out a full sound.
He does some masterly fingerpickin’ on the guitar and adds piano and assorted keyboards, and sings back-up as well. The seven pieces span the realm of folk music, some introspective, all pretty.
Cunningham is possessed of a fine tenor; he reminds me of a cross between John Denver and Dan Fogelberg. His technique is flawless; he puts out full, round tones effortlessly and sustains long notes with apparent ease.
The title song, “If You Knew All Along,” is a waltz with sweet high notes; pedal steel from Thomas Day and piano underlay the piece. “Falling” is a love song, slow, mellow and whispery. “If this is love, then I’m all in,” Cunningham croons, while a lovely cello riff from Mai Bloomfield dives for low notes. Bloomfield also sings all the harmony on the CD.
The gently rolling nursery rhyme, “Give It Up,” about family bickering, finds Cunningham doubling the lead on both guitar and vocals for a cool, layered effect. “Terra Firma” takes place during an earthquake. It starts out country, then, on the hook, stomps into Alex Koukov’s banjo-propelled bluegrass sound.
“Spanish Dove,” from 1989, has soft guitar fretwork to open; Cunningham’s lilting voice fits perfectly with this quiet song, not quite mesmerizing us, but coming pretty darned close – as he does on much of this album.
– Mariss McTucker