Veteran singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andy DeWitt recently released his debut solo album, the aptly-titled Sweet Freedom. It is available digitally and on CD from his CDbaby store and via Amazon; he also has the album up on his Youtube channel to stream. Before going solo, the Chicago born and Kansas based musician previously recorded and released three albums in three consecutive years that featured full band arrangements; 2009’s Midway, 2010’s Cool-Rays and 2011’s Reggae-influenced Made In Jamerica. Touring with the band wasn’t really an option though and DeWitt found it easier just to go out alone. He can usually be found gigging around town playing crowd favorites from the 70’s and 80’s classic soft rock, pop and soul catalogs interspersed with his own worthy original tunes. In fact, it was during these solo performances that he was able to fine-tune the original songs that make up the album Sweet Freedom. All songs were written, arranged, performed, mixed, and produced by Andy DeWitt who sings and plays acoustic guitar, bass, melodica and percussion on the album.
The title track, “Sweet Freedom” opens the album with its radio-friendly sound, setting the tone for the rest of the album with its upbeat jangly acoustic guitar-led rhythm, catchy, sing-along chorus and hopeful, inspiring lyrical sentiment. Next, “Bend A Little Bit” features a catchy melodica melody and a jumpy reggae-inspired strumming pattern that results in a breezy beach-like vibe. “Dead Serious” stands out with some fancy fretwork and an interesting echoing vocal effect that keeps things from getting boring. As a nice change of pace, DeWitt shows off a different, softer side of his songwriting skill with the folksy ballad-esque “Friend” and its gentle, cascading guitars. He also adopts a deeper timbre to his voice that allows him to give an emotive vocal performance. “Really Love” is another infectiously catchy track with a fun rhythm made up of pitter-pattering hand percussion along with a call and response-like chorus that is sure to become a crowd favorite at his live shows.
“The Voice Inside” follows and is marked by a lovelorn sentiment with almost universal appeal, as the song’s narrator longs for a love that he let drift away. Though the lyrics are somewhat sad in nature, the music is surprisingly chipper, offering a glimmer of hope. This is a trick that DeWitt does very well – preaching positivity through his music, with this track as the perfect example. Along the same lines, “Dollars” is highlighted by a politically-charged message that defends the homeless and destroys greed alongside an intriguing arrangement featuring reggae-inflected guitars, more melodica and resounding reverb-rich percussion for another standout moment. DeWitt pushes that hopeful positivity to the max on the laid-back “Happy Songs”, with clever lines like, “When the sewers they back up, better pack up or learn to surf over the grime” along with finger-snaps and a hummable melodica melody. The nine-song album closes out on a high note with the wistful “Home Sweet Home” and its classic country & western inflected ornamentation that includes aching slide guitar and a soaring, sing-along chorus.
With the experience that comes from writing, recording and releasing three albums with his previous band behind him, Andy DeWitt has issued a fully formed and assured solo debut in Sweet Freedom that delivers on the promise of those prior efforts and then some. The album is the perfect showcase for DeWitt’s pleasing and pliable voice, seemingly effortless knack for catchy, sing-along melodies and laid-back yet confident guitar-work as well as his strong songwriting. Maybe as a solo act, it will be easier for DeWitt to tour the country and allow for more listeners to be able to discover him and his under the radar talent.
Artist: Andy DeWitt
Album: Sweet Freedom
Reviewed by: Justin Kreitzer
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars