On November 11, 2008, Denison Witmer will release Carry the Weight, his seventh album. Carry the Weight nods toward the 70s singer-songwriters (such as Jackson Browne, Carol King, and Leonard Cohen) that have served as Witmers inspiration since his earliest recordings. Witmer captures the lyrical honesty and serene, poignant tone crafted by these earlier songwriters, transforming it into something entirely personal and entirely his own.
"Linens and cedar chests/Notepads and instruments/Weeks in a row/I stayed alone/Ill be alright/Ill be alright."
- Chesapeake Watershed
In the three years since his previous release, Are You a Dreamer?, Witmer has grappled with unexpected challenges. In quick succession, he experienced the demise of a serious relationship and the diagnosis of a close friend with cancer. Both events left Witmer with unanswered questions. "The last few years have been difficult," he admits. "I used songwriting to do my best at making sense of both my personal problems and watching my friend battle cancer. My friend is incredibly optimistic. He put a lot of my life into perspective. Things as simple as watching him get up and head straight into the next day with little-to-no fear reminded me of what I had known but somehow lost: that things can feel like they are spinning out of control, but that they rarely are. Ultimately, we can overcome that out-of-control feeling and embrace hope through it all. Hope is contagious."
"Carry the weight of your neighbor/Carry the weight of a stranger/Im not afraid to say I dont know what to do/So I carry the weight."
- Carry The Weight
The result of Witmers years of personal struggle is a surprisingly upbeat album, one that belies the experiences that led to its creation. Like many of Witmers earlier albums, Carry the Weight examines many variations on a theme. However, Carry the Weight is deceptively expansive it its narrative and sonic scope. Witmers songs explore the purpose of optimism ("From Here On Out"), the arc of friendships ("Isnt it Poetry?"), the struggle with consumerism ("Life Before Aesthetics"), and the role of personal responsibility in our daily lives ("Carry the Weight").
"Isn't it poetry? / Words forced into space / I finally know the way / I follow words most days..."
- Isn't It Poetry?
Witmer tries to make music that is true to himself, embracing the process and not worrying what others might think of the outcome. He explains, "There is no definitive version of any song (recorded or live). What is captured is a time, place, and whatever feeling comes from that." The time and place - the process of recording - factors heavily in the mood and sound of Carry the Weight. Teaming up with good friend Blake Wescott (Witmers Of Joy and Sorrow, producer for The Posies, Sarah Shannon, and Damien Jurado), Witmer moved away from a decade-long history of home recording and, for the first time, recorded in a professional studio. "I've never liked the idea of making the same record twice," Witmer explains. "I consciously seek out ways to change the sound and arrangements from album to album. I thought, What better change things up for this album than to finally make a full studio album? I wanted to step into the environment that so many musicians I love and respect have worked in. I wanted to make a record on the same equipment they used. This seemed like the right time to do it. This seemed like the right time to do it and I am thankful I had the budget and friends with know-how enough to help me pull it off."
"If you are the writer, I am the page/If you are the water, I am the waves/If you are the fire, I am the rage/You left a light on in the back of my mistakes..."
- If You Are The Writer
Though Witmer tours mostly as a solo acoustic artist, he relishes the experience of musical community created during the recording process. "Making records is my only chance to feel like I am in a band. I love it." On Carry the Weight, Witmer chose to work with a group of musicians with whom he has a close personal relationship. Witmer explains, "Everyone involved in this project came together in a natural way. Its very important to me to never force a situation and Im glad we didnt have to do that to get this project done." Carry the Weight features Blake Wescott, Rosie Thomas (Witmer co-produced and engineered her 2006 album These Friends Of Mine with Sufjan Stevens), James McAlister (Witmers Are You a Dreamer?, Sufjan Stevens Illinoise), Noah Harris (Elanors, Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons), and Jeff Shoop (Rosie Thomas, Witmer tour partner).
"Will I know how every moment should be played?/That not every note sounds right together?/Will the meaning be transparent or opaque?/When they ask me I will say whichever/Im a child/Ive lost my mother/My sense of home is gone/From here on out it all sounds like a song/From here on out it looks like you and me..."
- From Here on Out
Despite its message of hope, Carry The Weight is never forced or falsely cheerful. Nor is Witmer concerned with record sales or pop hits. "I dont care if people like the music. I just want them to feel like Im being honest with them and know that I made a valiant effort."
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