Broken hearts, barrooms, rodeos, and crying in your beer—the new CD, Destinations Unknown, from Chris Guenther ’04 has all the ingredients of a traditional country from the heart of country music, Nashville. Chris separates himself from his crooner colleagues, though, with minimal instrumentation and a vocal delivery that harks back to the early days of country music. Destinations Unknown is the second full-length CD from the southwest Washington native. Chris penned all 10 songs, sings lead vocals, and plays six of the nine recorded instruments, including lead guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and piano. (Bassist James Gillette is a 2003 graduate in management information systems.) He also stepped into the producing role for the project, helping to shape the overall sound into a pleasing package of country, rockabilly, and down home, foot-stomping honky-tonk. Recorded digitally in Olympia, the CD never overwhelms the listener with sound, which can easily happen with too much production. Chris does a great job of arranging his band, “The Honky Tonk Drifters”; all the instruments find their place in each song beautifully. His vocals, styled somewhere between the nasal twang of Hank Williams Sr. and the smooth baritone of superstar Alan Jackson, also sit perfectly in the mix. Destinations Unknown draws on a variety of moods, from the Caribbean feel of the Jimmy Buffet-influenced “Juarez, Mexico” to the more serious tale of youthful rebellion in “It Will Never Be the Same.” The title track, “Destinations Unknown,” is an inspired waltz layered in tasteful lead guitar and pedal steel guitar, a combination used successfully throughout the CD. The storytelling truly comes alive with “I Gunned Him Down,” a Marty Robbins-inspired song that focuses on a neophyte gunfighter looking to make himself a name in the old West. The infectious hook of the chorus—”I gunned him down./ I pulled that pistol from my hip/ And the shots rang out./ I just let that bullet rip”—stays with you long after the first hearing. Chris doesn’t attribute his songwriting style to any particular one of his many influences, but rather to a combination of them all. Judging from what he has accomplished with Destinations Unknown, he has succeeded in finding his own niche within the genre.
Chris Guenther ’04
Red Arrow Records