This set from Andy Dewitt really feels like it would have been at home in the 1970s. While it manages to channel a healthy dosage of nostalgia in that way, it is still fresh and vital. It has some powerful music. The sound is based mostly in folk, but there are pieces that lean toward things like jazz, reggae and rock music. It’s successful in terms of song-writing, but also in guitar playing and vocal presence. It is quite an effective set, both when taken one song at a time and spun from start to finish.
The title track opens the set. In terms of the song structure itself, and the vocal performance, it lands somewhere in the vicinity of mellow folk rock. The guitar work, though, really stands apart. There is a definite jazz air to the piece. The guitar playing is impressive. Yet, somehow the whole thing gels quite well, never feeling like any part of it is out of place.
“Bend a Little Bit” might be less impressive than the opener was, but it has definite charms. There is a bouncy kind of genuine folk music vibe to the piece. The lyrics seem particularly poignant in the modern world of extremism. They talk about compromise, an important step toward cultural harmony.
The song “Dead Serious,” talks about dealing with a relationship that didn’t work out in the end. In some ways, the music feels light hearted, almost lending a dichotomy to the piece, given the title and chorus refrain. Musically it calls to mind some of Gordon Lightfoot’s mellower and less serious material.
Another song with poignant lyrics, “Friend” speaks to friendships, and particularly those that are discarded for a time only to be rekindled later, on many levels. Musically it’s another that is more along the lines of pure folk music. It’s gentle and evocative.
The guitar manages to shine again on “Really Love.” While overall the piece is essentially another folk rock cut, there are hints of reggae and jazz in the guitar sounds. It’s a more light hearted and energized piece.
“The Voice Inside” has more of that bouncy kind of folk music vibe. There are hints of jazz in the mix, too. It’s lighthearted, rather than poignant.
On the other hand, “Dollars” is one of the most serious cuts of the whole set. It has one of the fuller arrangements, too. There are great musical elements. The guitar shows off at some points, too. It’s more of a reggae-infused folk rock piece. The lyrics talk about the reality of poverty in the modern world.
Another song with a lot of bounce, “Happy Songs” also manages to merge folk and jazz musical styles. There is even a bit of a European café element at play. It’s a bit of lighthearted respite coming after the intensity that is “Dollars.”
The closer (“Home Sweet Home”) is more energetic. It’s still folk based, but manages to rock out a bit more than most of the songs on the disc. It’s a great way to bring things “home” in style, really. It’s perhaps the most modern sounding piece on the disc, too. It still has an element of nostalgia at play, though.
The balance between serious and playful throughout the set really brings variety to the disc. It is set up in a way that keeps it from every feeling redundant or stuck in one place. While the target audience clearly has ties to the fans of old school folk music of the 1970s, that’s not the whole picture. People who enjoy the modern Renaissance of roots music by bands like Mumford and Sons will be quite at home here, too. This is timeless music that still manages to be fresh and should resonate with modern audiences.
Artist: Andy Dewitt
Title: Sweet Freedom
Review by G. W. Hill
Rating: 4 (out of 5)