Bethlehem – Available November 27
In our three decades of writing and performing together, we are releasing our first holiday album, Bethlehem. Embracing the full depth and meaning of the Advent and Christmas season, this album leans into the message of hope for a more peaceful world.
We started this project in 2019 when we were touring in support of our 30th anniversary album Where to Begin. We were sitting in Chris’s living room in Bozeman, Montana on the first day of summer wood-shedding parts to “Lo, How a Rose Is Blooming” when, as if on cue, dark clouds came rolling over the mountains releasing a flurry of snow that covered the green grass and dandelions in the yard. Two inches had fallen by the time we finished our arrangement of the hymn. From that auspicious beginning, we continued to write new songs and rework familiar holiday favorites like “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” for which we crafted a new melody.
“We wanted to make a record that added something new to the conversation about the Christmas story, a vision that flips the narrative of this world and makes the first last, the last first and lifts up the lowly among us,” John says.” We wanted to explore the story of a poor refugee, born in a manger, because none would take him in.”
These themes became increasingly relevant as our touring came to an abrupt halt in March 2020 with the onset of the pandemic. When it was safe, John drove his 1970 VW bus out to Montana for some extended recording sessions, parking his camper in Chris’s backyard next to the chicken coop.
Making Bethlehem gave us a unique opportunity to capture our performances in the way we know it best – singing together in the same room. We recorded all but two tracks at Chris’s studio Basecamp Recording. “We allowed ourselves the time and space to find our natural rhythm for performing these songs to our highest potential,” Chris says.” It was liberating being the only two cooks in the kitchen — free from the clocks and distractions of others.”
The originals “Could It Be” and “The New Colossus” (adapted from the Emma Lazarus poem) were tracked at Sacred Heart in Duluth– a spacious cathedral-turned-music center that lends an ethereal quality to these reverent songs. Adding just the right amount of extra ornamentation and dimension to the record are a few of our favorite players — Tom Murphy (mandolins), Heidi Nagel (cello), Mike Parsons (upright bass, fiddle, banjo), and Mai Bloomfield and Marcie Lovgren (background vocals).
The sound and feel of Bethlehem is centered solidly around our acoustic guitars and intently focused harmonies. We are sure this album will appeal to fans of Storyhill, and hopefully become a go to Christmas folk classic, providing an oasis of peace and calm and bringing some light into times when we need it most.
Join the Storyhill Patreon team
Patreon is an interactive, subscription-based platform created for fans to directly support their favorite artists. It’s a modern-day, Zoom-era, patron-of-the-arts avenue that allows people to contribute at any level in exchange for access to all sorts of creative content. The collective patronage forms a bedrock of on-going financial support for the efforts of independent artists like us.
We are deeply grateful to be interacting and sharing our posts with the members of our Storyhill Patreon community. This collaborative support is truly helping us to keep being productive, plan for future touring, and dedicate time to sustaining our passion of making new music to share.
There have been dramatic changes in the music industry as well as changes in our personal lives since we started — and Patreon is perhaps our best hope for staying viable and connected with our closest fans over the long haul.
Please check out our Patreon page, join our growing Patreon community and gain access to the library of posts we’ve shared so far (over 50 and counting!). Plus, you’ll be among the first to get things like: insider updates, music videos, special archived and unreleased recordings, new songs and demos, in-the-moment blogs and photos from the road, private concerts, exclusive deals on Storyhill events… and any number of ideas we dream up to offer our awesome Patreon members. Does this sound like a win-win to you?
Thank you for your on-going patronage — every pledge matters.
~ Chris and John and the Storyhill team
Keep Calm and Steady On
Our good friend Gretchen Heim created these computer wallpaper versions for our us. During these stressful times of late they feel even more important. It’s our hope that the message and attractive look of these full color digital wallpapers will resonate and impart some extra encouragement to you, your friends and families. We are offering them to you at not cost at this time. Enjoy and share some peace with those around you.
Images below can be saved to your computer.
Where to Begin
Where to Begin was released on Friday, November 8 and is available at our shows, on this website and on all streaming services. This record was born from rehearsals during early summer in preparation for our 30-year career anniversary and Road Show held in Montana – which culminated with an unforgettable sold-out concert in Bozeman at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. As we were looking back and relearning songs from our younger years, something surprising happened. We discovered new meaning, new life and deeper appreciation for them. It was as if these early songs were actually meant for this stage in our lives, and for our voices of today. This reflection has also been a rediscovery of who we are at our core – two friends who choose to write and craft music together – and then yearn to share our creations with others.
For Where to Begin we went back to where we began… at Peak Recording Studio in Bozeman. Our old friend Gil Stober, the very same engineer who in 1989 recorded our first tape, Chris & Johnny, was quick to welcome us, commemorate our 30-year mile marker and applaud the vision for this project. We captured 12 tracks – some known by many for decades and others rarely, if ever performed, and maybe new to your ears. They are: Mentors, I Am a Lover, Whippoorwill, Satisfied Land, Crescent Moon, She Holds My Heart Out In The Wind, Shapeshifter, Campfire on the Taylor Fork, Storm, Inside Emotion, Pancho & Lefty and Things I Love. We approached the recording exactly how we perform – the two of us playing our guitars and singing for live, in-studio captures… and counted on the magic of that synergy we’ve known and strived for for so long.
Summer 2019 Recap
During the month of July, we celebrated 30 years of making music together with a four-day celebration in our hometown of Bozeman, Montana. Our Road Show took fans to locations that helped inspire some of our music, including our high school choir room, Bridger Bowl, Hyalite Reservoir, Mary on the Mountain and the Missouri River Headwaters.
Our week culminated with a concert at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds, where over 600 people showed up to attend the show. We feel overwhelmed by the support our community has given us over the last 30 years – we can’t say thank you enough.
Our celebration continues through the end of 2019, with November tour stops in Stillwater, St. Paul and Duluth, Minnesota. We will be making a return run through Montana in early December with stops in Gardiner, Missoula, Kalispell and Helena.
During those shows, we are excited to share more information about our plans for 2020 and ways we plan to connect with our fans. Steady on!
Stages, our new live album was released on November 16, 2018. The record includes 16 tracks recorded on several ‘stages’ we visited while touring between 2003 and 2015. Each individual track captures a moment in time when we knew there was connection. We connected with the people in the room, but also connected with each other. You may hear some ambient sounds in the background of some of the tracks, but you if you listen carefully, you’ll hear what some people call our signature sound: two voices, two guitars and the tight ethereal harmonies that continue to surprise and delight old and new fans.
We are very excited about the work our Storyhill team put into making this album come to life. Once again, we turned to our good friend and audio wizard Alex Oana, with his keen ear and knowledge of our combined talents to mix a new live Storyhill album that you’ll enjoy for years to come.