Kansas singer-songwriter Andy DeWitt uses a combination of piercingly honest lyricism and a James-Taylor-meets-Jimmy-Buffet type of sound to win over his listeners. His classic soft rock acoustic sound is met with island grooves and an undeniable charisma and charm, making his most recent release, Sweet Freedom, a delight to listen to from the very start.
While his first three releases were large productions complete with backing, horns, and guest artists, this project was written, performed, recorded, and mixed by DeWitt himself. On his first few releases he realized the difficulty of touring with a full band and the detailed logistics of being able to properly market the shows, he became frustrated with his current setup. It was then that DeWitt decided to reassess his music and ultimately chose to reel back his sound to consist of primarily vocals and acoustic guitar. This is where Sweet Freedom comes into play – it is the first release where he is able to properly translate his music from album to stage.
What’s interesting is that before reading his bio or learning anything about the musician, I listened to the album one time through. And while doing so, I kept thinking about how the album might sound with a full band backing. Some of these tracks could really benefit from some added instrumental texture.
That’s not to say these songs aren’t already impressive as they are, however. Some of these tracks are perfect as is and would only get bogged down with any added sound. Songs on this album feature percussion, backing vocals, and more. In fact, almost every track features more than his vocals and guitar. The only song that doesn’t also happens to be the most solemn tune on the album. “Friend” comes almost halfway through; and although it’s a well-written, well-composed song as it is, a few added strings in the background would do wonders for some added sentiment and emotion.
One of DeWitt’s strongest talents is songwriting, and his lyrics will keep you on your toes. While his songs are almost all about subjects such as love, loss, and heartache, he finds a way to keep everything alive and peppy. In “Dead Serious,” DeWitt reflects on the fondness he has for a certain person in his life but ultimately decides they’re not meant for each other, singing, “I’m dead serious about the way the stars were not in line for us. Dead serious, it was casting shadows on each patch of sun.” “The Voice Inside” is another important track to mention for its lyrics. One line in particular stands out. He sings, “And that’s why it’s so hard to take – when telling me goodbye is the only way you can satisfy that little voice inside.”
There’s something about these songs that would fit so well with an orchestral backing. This might be due in part to DeWitt’s own background; he performed with the Kansas City Symphony and even held the position of Principal Bassist in the Omaha Symphony from 1981 to 1983. Even so, some subtle strings placed in the right positions on these tracks would provide even more layer and depth to the album. And while added instrumentation might not transfer well to the stage when touring solo, adding some members to his tour might be an important step for DeWitt.
If you discover one new musician this week, it should be Andy DeWitt. His songs have a lot to offer, and he has much wisdom to share through his lyrics. While there really are no dull songs on the release, some of the most notable songs to listen for are “Bend A Little Bit,” “Friend,” and “Home Sweet Home.”
Artist: Andy DeWitt
Album: Sweet Freedom
Review by Alec Cunningham
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)