The word Tennesota is a geographic contraction, an intersection of two states that don't border each other. It sounds and looks like a term used before, but yet seems foreign or new. It's also the title of the soon-to-be-released duo-debut CD by songwriters Beki Hemingway and Jonathan Rundman, and it's a cleverly appropriate moniker for this richly textured Americana album.
Beki Hemingway brings the Tennessee half to the mix, with the newest chapter of her career set in Nashville. The Minnesota remainder is represented by Jonathan Rundman of Minneapolis. These new songs retain the flavor of the towns of their origin, with Hemingway's breathtaking vocals and lovely, melancholy melodies recalling Music City's country fringe (Emmylou Harris, Buddy & Julie Miller, etc.) and Rundman's heartland harmonies and garagey instrumentation echoing his Twin Cities forefathers (Jayhawks, Paul Westerberg, etc.). The blend is tailor made, and even carries hints of the duo's other less-expected musical commonalities like '80s New Wave and traditional church hymnody.
Just a couple short years ago both Hemingway and Rundman were neighbors in Chicago, and their independent solo performing careers frequently overlapped. After guesting on each other's recordings and sharing assorted gigs and tours, the pair began collaborating on a few unfinished musical ideas, resulting in some interesting and satisfying co-writes like "Consolation Prize" and "Easy Chair." In 2002 both artists found themselves with new opportunities in other states, and they left Chicago - Hemingway moving South, and Rundman relocating North. Their creative experimenting continued, however, despite the geographic separation. Thanks to the conveniences of digital technology Rundman and Hemingway began recording their new songs by sending tracks to each other through the mail, and much to their surprise, had half an album complete without much effort. When the pair was offered a performance at the Summer 2004 Cornerstone Music Festival, Hemingway suggested that they write a few more songs, record them, and have a special duets album ready for their upcoming appearance. Rundman concurred, and in the Spring of 2004 the songs for Tennesota were completed. The final tracks were assembled and mixed by Hemingway's husband, engineer and producer Randy Kerkman.
Also recruited for the project was acclaimed art designer Jim Ward Morris (Son Volt, Jay Farrar, Gillian Welch) who conceived a beautiful CD package for the album.