When I was in college, my friend Donovan played some music at our on-campus snack shop. That night, on acoustic guitar, he introduced me to two of my favorite singer/songwriters – Jan Krist and his brother, Denison Witmer. I honestly didn’t think much about Denison then, but in the way things go when you’re in college, I bought his first album because I knew he was – somehow that made the album cooler – and I’ve bought every album ever since.
Last night, Denison was playing at the Manhattan Room in Philadelphia to support the release of his new album, Carry the Weight. The show opened (quite a bit late, a fact that was my only complaint) with Steve Yutzy-Burkey from The Swimmers; this was a huge bonus for me because I had been lamenting the fact that I hadn’t been able to come up for The Swimmers’ show the previous night. Then, Tyler James played a great short set with a vibrant, yet soothing sound and great keyboards.
Finally, Denison took the stage and, in the way of great music, I felt myself sweep up into the notes. There’s something about Denison’s music that makes me completely alright with being myself in every facet that makes me who I am. He seems to simply own his words and his music. A bit ago, I heard someone say that Denison always sounds like Denison – “He only does Denison’s thing.” I thought this guy might have been critical, but now I think of that comment and believe Denison has been given a great compliment. How wonderful that a person can find their own voice and own it – through its cracks and flat notes (of which Denison rarely has any) and through its glorious tones and melodies. If only we could all be so lucky to find our own voices with such solidity . . .
Denison played the title track from his new album – “Carry the Weight.” It talks of “carrying” one another through life, bearing each other’s burdens, if you will. I resonate so strongly with this idea, and after the song, Denison told the crowd that he had received a review slaying his music and talking about this song as a “neo-hippie anthem.” Of all the things Hippies gave/give to culture, I think the absolute best of those is the desire to carry one another through life; so rock out with your neo-hippie anthem, Denison. We need that.
But my favorite song of the evening was a new song – “Life Before Aesthestics.” I love this line for it’s graceful simplicity – “Life before aesthetics is a mindset to impart, a way of letting go.” So many times I am trying to look a part, craft a veneer for myself so that I fit an image – but if I simply learned to live my life, the image, the aesthetics would follow.
Please take time to check out Denison’s indie folk sound. You won’t regret it.