Posts Tagged ‘ denison witmer

btv077 Denison Witmer : Safe Away LP

Denison Witmer
“Safe Away” (btv077)
Buy Online | LPTrack listing:
1. Steven
2. Breathe In This Life
3. Over My Head
4. This and That
5. Closer to the Sun
6. What Will Stay?
7. Miles
8. Dain
9. Los Angeles
10. Around Everything
11. I Would Call You Now
12. Sarah’s Bridge
13. I Won’t Leave
14. Broken
15. Say You’ll Stick Around
16. Meant to Be
Denison Witmer’s debut album, Safe Away, was recorded in the fall of 1997 with Don Peris (The Innocence Mission) who produced the album and played guitar on many of the album’s simple tracks. Many of these songs were written on an extended trip to Japan during 1996 and 1997 as reflections on many of his experiences and relationships both in Japan and at home. These are heartfelt, deeply emotional and sincere songs of love and broken hearts.

The songs of Safe Away are stripped down, but remain lush and powerful, akin to Mark Kozelek, Harvest-era Neil Young, or Nick Drake, but still unique in their own right. Safe Away is a simply recorded album capturing an airy intimacy and beauty. These recordings remain a favorite of Witmer’s growing fan base.

Witmer originally released Safe Away independently in the early winter of 1998. The album sold quickly through Denison’s touring efforts and went out-of-print. Witmerenlisted the help of his friend Scott French to record two additional songs to add to the album. The additional tracks were captured to 8-track cassette, showcasing the simple beauty of Witmer’s craft.

Denison and Burnt Toast Vinyl’s Scott Hatch met in the fall of 1997 when Hatch did the design for his original self-released edition of Safe AwayWitmer and Hatch became fast friends. Denison also became the building block for Burnt Toast Vinyl: the first artist to tour nationally, the driving force for growing promotion and publicity, and one of the best selling releases. Denison released three full-lengths (Safe Away, Of Joy and Sorrow, Philadelphia Songs), 2 eps (River BendsThe ‘80s), and a live record on Burnt Toast Vinyl. The btv version of Witmer’Safe Away went out of print in cd near the end of 2004. Now, Burnt Toast Vinyl is now proud to issue Safe Away as a special edition 180g virgin vinyl LP. The sparse, yet beautiful recordings sound phenomenal in the deluxe vinyl format.

The Burnt Toast Vinyl/Denison Witmer connection remains strong. He’s toured on several occasions with bands on the label and members of Saxon Shore back him on live tracks on a double cd re-issue of Safe Away released through The Militia Group in late fall 2006, the label that released Denison‘s latest album, Are You a Dreamer?Denison has also recorded with Rosie Thomas and Sufjan Stevens for Rosie’s latest full-length These Friends of Mine. The association with Stevens also provided a perfect opportunity for jokesters Witmer and Thomas to spoof venerable online music magazine Pitchfork into thinking the sessions also spawned a Thomas-Stevens love child.

Denison Witmer has shared the stage with many musicians such as My Morning Jacket, Sufjan Stevens, Joanna Newsom, Anathallo, Saxon Shore, Richard Buckner, Don Peris, The Innocence Mission, Damien Jurado, and Pedro the Lion. He has toured extensively throughout North America and Europe over his career and his Philadelphia Songs and Are You a Dreamer? were both released in Europe by Sweden’s Bad Taste Records.



btv086 Denison Witmer : Carry the Weight LP

Denison WItmer
Carry the Weight (btv086)
Buy Online | LP
Track listing:
A Side
1. Beautiful Boys And Girls
2. Life Before Aesthetics
3. From Here On Out
4. Carry The Weight
5. Isn’t It Poetry?
6. Catholic Girl
B Side
1. Song Of Songs
2. If You Are The Writer
3. One More Day
4. Chesapeake Watershed
5. Carry The Weight (Acoustic)
6. Two and a Glass Rose (LP Bonus Track)
Burnt Toast Vinyl is proud to release the vinyl version of Denison Witmer’s new album,Carry the Weight. btv and Witmer have had a special relationship since meeting in 1997 when btv’s Scott Hatch designed Witmer’s self-released version of his Safe Away debut. The partnership resulted in a re-issue of Safe Away (2000) on cd and deluxe 180g LP version (2007), as well as the full-lengths Of Joy and Sorrow (2001) and Philadelphia Songs (2002), the eps The ’80s (2001) and River Bends (2002), and a special mail-order only Live release (2003). The vinyl version includes alternate cover artwork, a special LP only bonus track, and a coupon for a free mp3 download of the album and bonus track.

Denison Witmer doesn’t care if people like his new album or not: “I just want them to think I am being honest with them and that I made a valiant effort.” And if listeners happen to notice that Carry the Weight is also a beautifully produced, thoughtful nod to the laid-back ’70s California pop he’s long cherished, the 30-something Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter would be just delighted. But mostly Witmer wants people to embrace hope—something that’s easier than might first seem possible with a soundtrack this polished and assured for inspiration. Songs such as the gently affirmative “From Here On Out” and “Chesapeake Watershed,” the album’s gently emphatic title track, and the chiming, charming sing-along Luddite anthem, “Life Before Aesthetics” mark Carry The Weight as a classic—for fans old and new.

For this, his seventh release, Witmer teamed up with Blake Wescott—noted producer of albums by The Posies, Sarah Shannon and Damien Jurado, among others, and drummer for Pedro the Lion. Previously the Witmer and Wescott worked together on Witmer’s Of Joy And Sorrow, but Witmer—a veteran of home-studio recording for nearly a decade—was eager to record at a professional studio. “I’ve never liked the idea of making the same record twice,” he states. “I consciously seek out ways to change the sound and arrangements from album to album.”

What made recording Carry the Weight so special to Witmer was the opportunity to work at the London Bridge Studio in Seattle, where Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love and Pearl Jam’s Ten were recorded. “I wanted to make a record on the same equipment they used,” he explains. “It was really fun to have access to a uninterrupted recording environment, first-class equipment, and instruments I can’t afford—like a $40,000 grand piano. Blake encouraged me to take the leap into structuring a project from start to finish in a way that would allow me to maximize my time and budget, as well as get me into a bigger studio to see what could be done.”

Dollars and fancy gear aside, what emerged from Witmer’s sessions with Blake is surely the modest troubadour’s strongest and most cohesive album thus far. The pair’s shared veneration of the music of such luminaries as Carole King, Jackson Browne and Leonard Cohen—plus Wescott’s technical know-how—served Witmer’s new batch of wistful, unpretentious tunes most admirably. “Blake knows the records I love in and out, and he knows how to recreate the sounds we love from those records. We’re been able to push and pull each other without a lot of drama,” Witmer says, “and the outcome has always been something we both feel great about.”

Though much of Carry the Weight was written on the road over the last few years, with certain aspects of songs and arrangements developing over time, he’s quick to admit that, to him, there is no such thing as the definitive version of any song—recorded or live. It’s all about “the moment” for Witmer: “I try not to get things too figured out before I get to the studio,” he continues, “because I like the element of surprise. There’s a lot of freedom in letting go of the ‘perfect version of this song’ style of recording and just embracing the process of it all… What’s captured is a time and place, and whatever feeling that comes from that.”

Though Witmer doesn’t have a band, per se—he usually tours as a solo acoustic act—close friends called in to make Carry the Weight resonate with the sort warmth and fellowship that only comes from a strong affinity and shared aesthetic: “Everyone involved in this project came together in a natural way,” he relates. As before, Witmer’s lilting voice and deceptively straightforward guitar are the bedrock on which the album is built, but a confident sonic expansiveness is achieved through the perfectly conceived contributions of his chosen fellow travelers: Noah Harris, who plays piano and sings; Rosie Thomas, a friend whose most recent record Witmer co-produced, and who here graces several songs with her luscious vocals; Jeff Shoop (Ester Drang, Sufjan Stevens, Rosie Thomas), a guitarist/keyboardist and former tourmate; and drummer James McAlister (Ester Drang, Sufjan Stevens), longtime friend, collaborator and fellow player with Witmer in Sufjan Stevens’ “Michigan Militia” band.

Though never forced or falsely cheerful, Carry the Weight offers a very humanistic, transcendental message—one that was a revelation to the songwriter himself, who describes the last few years of his life as “rather difficult.” The main difference between the new disc and Are You A Dreamer? (Witmer’s last full-length, from 2005), Witmer admits, is that he wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful when he started writing songs that eventually became Carry the Weight. “Whether it was the political deterioration of our country, watching terrible things happen to good people, or the repeated mistakes I was making in my own life,” Witmer confides, “I had given in to a lot of pessimism. Carry the Weight became an argument with myself about whether or not the hope I have left is real—or just idealistic naiveté. I’m happy to say that hope won the argument.”

“Can’t you see how much I’m trying?” asks Witmer on the album’s haunting closer, “One More Day.” Anyone who has a heart surely will.



btv094 Denison Witmer : The Ones Who Wait 2xLP

Denison Witmer
The Ones Who Wait (btv094)
Buy Online | gatefold 2xLP

Track listing:
1. Hold On
2. Brooklyn With Your Highest Walls
3. Life Before Aesthetics
4. Your Friend
5. Influence
6. Every Passing Day
7. Light On My Face
8. Two And A Glass Rose
9. One More Day
10. Cursing
11. I Live In Your Ghost
1. Champagne Supernova
2. Northern Sky
3. I Canʼt Make You Love Me
4. Have You Forgotten
5. Comfort You
6. Is There A Ghost

Fifteen years and nine albums into his career, Denison Witmer is familiar with the unexpected and often quixotic intersections that can take place between life and musical career. His newest album, The Ones Who Wait, is a reflection of this understanding of self and the growth that comes through life experience. It is an intimate reflection on the meandering path of life, on family and friendships, on death balanced with new life, on endings and beginnings. In Denisonʼs own words, The Ones Who Wait is about “patience and reverence. Being mindful and open to what youʼre experiencing. A desire to take hold of whatʼs happening in your life, yet trusting the mystery of it enough to let go and participate rather than dictate.”

Much like any one of Denisonʼs previous eight records, this ninth record started as a collaboration. He and fellow producer/engineer Devin Greenwood casually started working on an EP.

In the midst of this new start, however, Denison found himself pulled back to his native Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His father, who was diagnosed with cancer 3 years previously, had taken a turn for the worse. “My father was never the kind of guy who let people fuss over or take care of him,” Denison says of that time. “But in the last few months of his life, there was this kind of acceptance and he allowed himself to be taken care of. He did it really graciously and generously. It was a beautiful thing to participate in and a gift to those around hm. Those are months that I would never trade for anything. I stopped making music. I stopped doing everything. I just spent time with him.”

A few months later, his dad passed away. Denison grieved with his family, and remembered.

He returned to the studio with a new approach to the EP he had first started building the previous winter. What began as an EP grew into a full-length album, as Denison added songs that reflected the changes in the intervening year.

Denisonʼs albums have always been markedly personal, each one a significant milestone in his life. But The Ones Who Wait marks a whole new level of intimacy with listeners. Getting married, starting a business, and watching his dad close the final chapter on his life have helped Denison tell his own story better, to be more delicate, and confident. Bringing things full circle, as he wrapped up post-production on The Ones Who Wait, Denison found out he was going to be a father too.

The sound of The Ones Who Wait indicates a new maturity in Denisonʼs musical career, a subtle sense of confidence in his voice and music. His guitar and voice sit front and center in the sound, evoking a melodic warmth reminiscent of 70s-era singer-songwriters like Paul Simon and Jackson Browne. Denison reined in his well-established network of musicians to fill out the sound of the record, including CJ Camerieri (Bon Iver, Rufus Wainwright), Devin Greenwood (Norah Jones, Amos Lee), James McAlister (Sufjan Stevens), Charles Staub (Melody Gardot), and Rosie Thomas.

His songwriting, now trademark, is a finesse he uses to balance dark and light in the songs, lament and hymn. On “Hold On,” Denison sings about “How a father always starts out as a son, how sometimes youʼre both, sometimes youʼre only one. How we manifest things far beyond our means. I do this for you. You did that for me.”

A Lancaster, PA native, Denison first picked up the guitar at age 16, and was writing his own songs shortly after. Mentored by Don Peris (Innocence Mission) and influenced by Neil Young, Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen, Denison forged a compelling ambient folk sound that CMJ called “deceptively powerful” and Pitchfork said was “lavish but restrained.” called Denison their “favorite underrated singer-songwriter.”
Put all together, the album marks a big change for Denison: a life without his dad, a new label, a new worldview as a parent. As Witmer looks forward to the next phase of “the cyclical life” of writing-recording-touring, he is philosophical, as always, but confident about releasing an album in an overcrowded marketplace.

“I donʼt really have an agenda when I release my records,” he says. “I just feel like I want to share something and give back to the creative community that Iʼve taken from as a listener. My hope is that people can experience the music and it touches them in some way. Iʼve been in this business long enough to know that you canʼt pick your fans. Your fans pick you. My biggest concern is I want people to feel like Iʼm being honest with them, and for me, to know that Iʼve created something that I really believe in.”

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