Some things just get better with time.
With a strong following of college students and coffeehouse regulars, the acoustic duo of Chris Cunningham and Johnny Hermanson, also known as Storyhill, has released its first studio CD in six years. Released in December 2002, “Dovetail” has 10 tracks that are definitely acoustic but sometimes sound like cool 1970s pop music. Their harmonies have been compared to Simon and Garfunkel, their sound has been likened to the plaintive tunes of Cat Stevens and their acoustic lilt brings comparisons to the Indigo Girls.
Cunningham and Hermanson grew up in Montana, attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., and released “Shapeshifting” in 1989 as Chris and Johnny. With more than 45,000 CDs sold, 10 more discs and a songbook with lyrics and chord progressions for almost 40 songs, the duo is again on tour through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Montana, North Dakota and Idaho.
Besides writing the songs, Cunningham and Hermanson sing, play guitars and play harmonicas. While listening to their CD is a treat in itself, they’re known to garner applause during concerts when they switch back and forth between the vocals and the two instruments.
Hermanson wrote the mournful track “Angel” for the “Dovetail” album in response to Sept. 11, 2001; the soulful lyrics tell the story of a guardian angel unable to save someone from their doom.
“When they said he will not let your foot be moved/What they meant was that I would be there for you/Ö I dropped the ball, saw you slip, let you fall/but I’m still your angel, and I was born to protect you.”
“What was Wrong” was written after the duo disbanded in the late 1990s and was first performed in St. Paul, Minn., during the live recording of the “Reunion” album in the summer of 2001. The song reminisces about two friends who were “both of us the picture of the other,” but after things go wrong the narrator said, “I can’t believe you didn’t notice what was wrong was gone.” It’s more than a boyfriend/girlfriend breakup song; it delves into the core of what was once a close friendship that’s gone sour.
The backup instrumentals on “Worst Enemy” bring a country music feel to a song that could have as easily been a pop song or a hard rock tune. Then again, Storyhill’s not known for playing it safe.