Sometimes, something seems like such an obvious idea that you’re sure it has to have been done before. Point in case, Dave Gunning and JP Cormier’s recent release, ‘Two’.
While the two have been friends for a long time, and have shared local stages and crossed paths elsewhere, this is the first time they have made an album together.
The friendship between Gunning and Cormier, although seemingly timeless, does in fact have a beginning, and a fairly humble one at that. Gunning needed a fiddler for a gig; his friend John Meir suggested Cormier, and Gunning — not all that familiar with Cormier — rolled the dice and gave him a shot.
“I knew that he had just moved back from Alabama,” Gunning said. “I just knew that he played fiddle and that was about it, then we heard from other people that he played banjo and guitar and bunch of other stuff.”
Gunning added that Cormier — who had played for the likes of Marty Stuart, Waylon Jennings and Bill Monroe — was known, just not to him. Today, he describes JP as being family.
‘Two’ was recorded at Gunning’s, rather than Cormier’s studio, leading Gunning to joke that his Wee House of Music was closer to Uncle Leo’s Brewery than Cormier’s facility.
“JP’s been good for the local economy,” he joked.
The duo took about 18 months, off and on, to create the album, and Gunning said it was a complete collaboration, with the pair co-writing and co-arranging. They also made a point of recording their guitars together and when that was settled, recording their vocals together and limited themselves to just those four tracks.
“We did it as a challenge to ourselves,” Gunning said. “It’s so easy to add stuff, but we felt that was wimping out. We wanted the two guitars and two vocals to stand out on their own. We also wanted to record something that could be produced exactly like that live, with no trickery. It’s a day and age where vinyl’s coming back, I think honesty in music is coming back in a lot of circles.”
The other effect of their recording style was that their playing styles and the sound of their guitars created lush harmonic qualities that Gunning likened to a non-existent third guitar.
“We both play differently when we’re playing together and we both sing differently,” he explained. “There’s just something better that comes out of each of us. We love making music together. On this record what we did is kept it really simple, just two guitars and two vocals.”
Gunning said their respective guitar styles create an interesting mesh, with his often altered tunings providing ringing notes and “droney stuff”, and Cormier showing amazing restraint and creating memorable melodic parts.
“He’s just such an incredible musician,” Gunning added. “He’s unbelievable, I’ve been working with him and we’re very close but there’s still times where I’ll hear him do something and think ‘what was that? Where the hell did that come from and how did he even think of it?’ It comes natural to him.”
Gunning said in some cases he and Cormier fully fleshed out, arranged and recorded the guitars before even completing the lyrics. This allowed them to not only have clean guitar tracks free of vocal bleed, but also apply the same dedication to their guitar work to crafting vocal harmonies.
“I know that I tend to play better and sing better when I play with him, he has said similar things. He’ll play differently.”
‘Two’ is available now at gunningandcormier.com.