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Beat Jab: Denison Witmer, Andrew Bird

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Beat Jab offers reviews in prose poetry form from 2011 Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Emerging Author Award winner Micah Ling.

Denison Witmer
The Ones Who Wait
Asthmatic Kitty
★★★½

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If you don’t know the difference between a singer and a singer/songwriter, Witmer is the latter. And it makes a huge difference. His songs are stories: they’re people and experiences that he knows well. His songs are all heart. Apparently, Witmer has been through quite a bit since his last album. He lost his father, signed with a new label, and became a parent himself. Asthmatic Kitty will be releasing “part two” to this album later this summer. A new set of stories, no doubt. His finger-picking isn’t overly complicated, but it stands out: practiced. It all seems to come easy. Like he may have literally been born with a guitar. He has a Cat Stevens sound going, for sure: like, yeah, you might have to lean in a bit to hear a little more, but you’re willing to. You get the feeling that he’ll never run out of stories to tell—that he’s writing songs as quickly as his hand can keep up. He’s keeping calm, that’s clear. And by the end, you do want more of these little songs—these people and stories that you may or may not know as your own—but that you believe to be truth.


Andrew Bird
Break it Yourself
Mom+Pop
★★★★

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This is like the perfect marriage between classical music and bluegrass; except, it’s more exciting than that. Maybe the perfect fling between the two. The two on vacation. It has its indie/rock moments—but in a truly impressive way—like when you read a poem that blows you away and then find out that it’s in perfect meter. Yeah, that’s probably just me. It has about a billion instruments (that’s an estimate), and they all just fit. He really can rock the glockenspiel; really. “Danse Caribe” is glorious: it confirms that he’s a pro. His voice is comfortable—you start craving it the way you crave the beach and big water. “Give it Away” is made by the asides (“Yeah I gave it away.”) It’s got confidence. It almost has a jam-band feel, just in that the instruments are highlighted and slowed down. What Bird is doing on this album seems only possible after such a prolific career; like learning the rules really, really well, so that you can start breaking them. “Hole in the Ocean Floor” is over eight minutes long, but he totally pulls it off: he flaunts that he does know the rules—that he’s a master musician. This song has you thinking, “Oh wait, maybe I do like classical music…uh oh, what if I like opera, too?!”

Check out the Beat Jab Podcast: a treat for the ears.

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