The Phantom Tollbooth

River Bends
Artist:  Denison Witmer
Label:  Velvet Blue Records
Time:  5 Tracks/17:23

It takes a great deal of courage to play acoustic music.  When it's just your voice and a single guitar, there aren't many places to hide.  If your songwriting is even remotely sub-par, every member of your audience knows it immediately.  Denison Witmer braves these risks, and the Christian music world is blessed because of it.

Witmer's new EP, River Bends, contains five songs of stripped back, emotive songs.  These songs are instantly both intensely personal and remarkably accessible, touching the innermost regions of the human soul. Witmer has said that his songs are "100% autobiographical," and it shows. There are no fancy metaphors here, only his feelings set down to melancholy melodies and finger-picked acoustic guitars.

The five songs on the EP show intense pain, but also the hope that beckons Witmer through this pain.  "You Got Me Good," for example, tells a heart-wrenching story of lost love, but "Healing Time" balances this with hope:

    You don't feel at home
    Underneath our Pennsylvania sky
    Covered in guitars
    Deep inside the music, there's a place for you
    Your parents and your friends
    You don't think that we know how you feel
    Waving to your car
    If we had a choice, we'd go along with you

    We could take a drive
    Cities and street lights pass you by
    We could take a drive
    You could give your heart healing time

It's albums like River Bends that make me wish there were more artists of this genre.  Here's hoping Denison Witmer's upcoming full-length is as rewarding as his EP.

Michial Farmer