Neverwas
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Neverwas

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"More interesting and relevant than any GUITAR Magazine cover feature you can name"

It's funny, but my first thought upon listening tot his album was "wow, it's a guitar album" - if you're a guitarist, you probably remember those days back in the late '80s and early '90s when discs of guitar wankery were sold by the bushel (anybody remember Chastain? Blues Saraceno?). And in some ways, Chris Cunningham reminds me of those guys, in that he's obviously an extremely talented and versatile guitarist. Thankfully, the things he does with that skill are a hell of a lot more interesting and relevant than any GUITAR Magazine cover feature you can name, and the songs are worth listening to all by themselves.

There's somewhat of a "world music" tinge running through the whole thing, kinda the same sort of felling you get when listening to Peter Gabriel or Sting's later stuff. Those two also come to mind in the soft but rough-edged vocal style and the dark, echoey sound of the music, particularly on tracks like "This One's On Me" or the title track. I swear, the voice makes that comparison difficult to shake, and if I heard this on the radio, I might mistake it for one of the above folks - but hey, if you've gotta be compared to somebody, it could be a whole lot worse, right?

Listening to this album all the way through's a pretty intriguing experience - off instruments like bouzouki, tabla and dulcimer crop up throughout, and all the songs, even the more upbeat tracks, share a generally "dark" atmosphere, despite the hopeful sounds of the Tori Amos-ish hymn "Hamd'ullah" or the agile, sorta-bluesy "Poppa Johnnie's Eyes." I like music that paints scenes more than almost any other kind, and this music feels kinda like walking through an empty part of the city at night; it's a picture of New York, I'd say, particularly those murky corners and bars where people go to get drunk and forget other people exist. (Oh yeah, and stick around after the CD's end for "hidden track" of fractured swing, a la fellow NY'ers Morphine (R.I.P.) or maybe Firewater, 'cause it's pretty fine.) - Jeremy Hart from Space City Rock (music and art zine out of Houston, TX)


"Innovator"

Chris Cunningham is the quiet kind of innovator who might go through life without getting the appropriate recognition due him. Sure, he's a sought-after studio guitarist in the body-bruising competitive New York music market. Of course, he can steal the stage with a pyrotechnic lead (which he can also make look totally effortless) when he's playing in one of the fine bands who vie for his services. So it's great that he's been able to find time to produce an album which features his prodigious talents as a guitarist, but also reveals a gift for stringing stanzas of evocative verse together in songs which are as tuneful as they are experimental.

Cunningham can write a melody which will hang with you like a burr. Then he'll twist it playfully like a jeweler fashioning a bauble.

Or he'll give it wings so that it can dive like a hawk into a shrill minor key. He'll let the tune off its leash to ramble through a thicket of exotic percussion. Or he'll give the melody a new voice through innovative tunings. And this simple, lovely melody will emerge as a genetic mutation, a hummable beautiful genetic mutation of the original.

Cunningham sings in a reedy, raspy tenor which lends itself well to the dark poetry of his urban cityscapes and the rich images scrawled on these musical mind maps. This album proves that Cunningham is much more than a gifted sideman. Give him the stage, the mike and six strong strings and we find that he's a mad genius who can create songs of dense beauty, lush texture and outlandish originality. - Ed McKeon from the New Britain Herald (New Britain, CT)


""Stories To Play" rocked my lame ass"

Recently, I took a road trip. Now, music was an important, possibly the most important, part of the miles of open road. To quell the drudgery of six and a half thousand miles or so, tunes had to be constant. As the sunlight dimmed over the slow rolling waves of Big Sur, the crisp strands of "Stories To Play" came pouring from the stereo, providing a motion picture moving montage. The curves matched the rhythm of the music beautifully. It was a cinematic moment. Chris Cunningham's mastery of anything with strings in a soulful, stripped down, but never laid bare, easy way led this to be a disk not easily removed from the CD player. The overall tone is like the long-lost followup Indio album, subtly rocking. It manages to infuse the oft-tired genre of folk with rock sensibilities in a hip, honest way, devoid of the overproduction and layers of studio tricks that so many artists find themselves relying on. Cunningham reprises the smart skillful methodology that he showed on so many of Lori Carson's albums, yet innovates enough that he leaves us with a complete piece. How does it rate? Well, the best thing I can say is that when my copilot for the road trip showed me the new CD's he had bought, the one he was most proud of was "Stories To Play." And for me? "Stories To Play" rocked my lame ass. - Josh Steichmann from The Misanthropist, out of Ann Arbor, Michigan


"Distinctive Stylistic "Voice""

Taxi reviewed the single "I know" and had this to say:

Right away I'm intrigued by the fact that you're mixing so many different stylistic elements into this particular arrangement. It's hard to catagorize exactly what kind of music this is you're playing, although it definitely sounds edgy and has a very contemporary appeal. The vocal performance is really stunning. I particalarly love when you swoop up into your falsetto voice, which happens unexpectedly and causes chill bumps to raise on my arms. The arrangement flows smoothly from section to section, and when the song is over I feel compelled to push play and take it in all over again, lest I missed some little inticacy on the first time through....

They go on to say:

Lyrical theme and imagery seem very personal, and the vocal performances sounds incredibly expressive...

Flows smoothly from start to finish. Feels very satisfying emotionally. - Taxi


"Cunningham, Crigler and Hill + Kinney"

Banjo Jim’s; Thu 28, Fri 29

Even if foot surgery earlier this month hadn’t left him on crutches, Chris Cunningham might have played seated at Banjo Jim’s. Now residing in Minneapolis, the former Contortions, Lounge Lizards and Golden Palominos guitarist prizes instrumental precision above all else—invention excepted. On Neverwas, released in May on the fledgling Firm label, he turns exception into rule.

Granted, a few tracks—opener “Friday Cane” for one—hew to the tried-and-true singin’, strummin’ and sentimentalizin’ tactics exploited by everyone from James Taylor to Vetiver. But they’re just setups for the likes of “Iceberg.” Delivered wistfully and unironically over lambent fingerpicking, in a warm baritone that suggests a woodsy Scott Walker, the chorus’s wistful “Just cop some Pakistani brown / In the shadows / Of the railway station / In Freiburg” stands out like a pachyderm in a Jacuzzi.

This week’s engagement finds Cunningham mingling his cosmopolitan campfire songs with compositions by like-minded journeymen and frequent collaborators Jason Crigler and Timothy Hill. While it’s unlikely that Hill will bust many of the Tibetan singing moves he honed during 30 years in David Hykes’s Harmonic Choir, Cunningham’s presence is pretty much guaranteed to endow Hill’s relaxed-fit jams with otherness aplenty. Ditto for Crigler, a vet of Marshall Crenshaw’s and Teddy Thompson’s bands who’s now miraculously gigging again nearly three years after a cluster of burst cerebral blood vessels almost delivered him to the Reaper. Michelle Kinney, a monster of cello adept at everything from drones to jazz, might open, if she doesn’t get stuck hauling hubby Cunningham’s guitars. - Time Out New York


Discography

Neverwas "Neverwas" - 2007
Christopher Cunningham "Stories to Play" - 1998
*Nominated for a Grammy

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Bio

Neverwas (a.k.a. Christopher Cunningham, sync66, el peludo, Moribund Veneer, etc.)

Born during the us-soviet spylane showdown of 1960, Neverwas grew up amidst the rising noise floor of the hyperactive American youth culture, and hit the ground running - directly into the belly of the early 1980's No wave and Downtown Punkfunk scenes of both American coasts. His lead guitar gig with James Chance (James White) and The Contortions (Blacks) began a twenty-Five year period of musical global voyaging, involving a multitude of subsequent groupings, pairings, and breakups. Although NYC was always the home country, the time zones kept changing along with the languages on the billboards and street signs as chris collaborated on stages and in studios (around the world) with the likes of Marianne Faithfull, The Lounge Lizards, Gavin Friday, Boukman Eksperyans, Omar Farouk Tekbilek, Katell Keineg, The Golden Paliminos, Marshall Crenshaw, Richie Havens, and The Saqqara Dogs.

In 1998, Christopher Cunningham, released his first solo CD, Stories To Play, which earned much critical praise and a Grammy nomination.

In the early 1990's, he also began a continuing collaboration with cellist/composer Michelle Kinney, which has produced massive amounts of music, CD’s, concerts, and voyages, as well as two fine children.

Relocating their brood to the Twin Cities in 2002, Chris has continued to branch out further into composing for moving pictures, producing other artists, and adding laptop VJing to his long list of "axes of choice". His multimedia remix ensemble Improvised Explosive Device regularly detonates its experiments in area clubs and festivals.

The music for the CD NEVERWAS was written and recorded over several years in a wide variety of locations, nations, and situations; from hotel rooms, jumbo jets, the middle of lakes, numerous basements and alleys, cornfields, and streetcorners, to balconies filling with jungle rain.

This is urban/rural digital folk music, intended for your postnational and eventually posthuman future listening pleasure. May it keep your hardware hard, and your software soft.