On Asthmatic Kitty’s SoundCloud page for Denison Witmer’s self-titled tenth studio album, the label compares the Pennsylvania-native’s music to major league baseball pitcher R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball: both are unpredictable and nontraditional. The implication is that Denison Witmer is the equivalent of a masterful Cy Young season.
This is, of course, a rather dramatic correlation. Take a spin through Denison Witmer’s 11 songs, and whether listening to an album stream or consciously and individually clicking through the individual tracks, distinguishing song-to-song shifts proves difficult, as Witmer chooses an acoustic guitar as his primary partner and additional instruments (hear: light percussion, occasional keys, and drowsy bass) are reduced to mellowing sleep-aids. This is not an arrangement for fans of the ornate.
On the other hand, though, Witmer’s been in this game for more than 15 years, and he manages to not only stay creatively productive but also true to his mission. Which is at least admirable even if it isn’t wildly varied. This is a guy who records his feelings almost every year and issues press releases reporting that the music industry has taught him, and this is an actual quote, “to be patient, to trust in happy accidents, and to admit every once in a while that he isn’t totally in control.”
Despite this seemingly sunny disposition, Witmer questions himself on this self-titled record.“What if I’m just not made out for this?” he asks himself repeatedly on “Made Out for This” and similar contemplations come toward the album’s end as his reluctant croon ponders, “Is my mind at east or am I jaded? / Has the brightest color in me faded?”. Even with his diary-like, self-conscious confessions, Witmer knows who he is and remains much more kinetic than his semi-somber tunes.
“This is a turning point for me,” he said. “Even though it’s late in my career, I can feel something moving.” Limited palette aside, that movement rings through.
Essential Tracks: “Made Out for This”