Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

After the unprecedented events we witnessed in this country earlier this week, it feels somewhat surreal to blog about something completely unrelated. At the same time, the fact new music keeps coming out is reassuring to me. In fact, music has always had a degree of healing power during challenging times and provided a welcome distraction. While ignoring reality can be dangerous, I believe occasionally escaping from it is a good thing to clear your mind and gather strength.

I’m very excited about this week’s Best of What’s New installment, which features indie and country singer-songwriters, a young incredibly talented vintage soul vocalist who knocked my socks off and…well, you’ll need to continue reading to find out yourself. All of this great music was just released yesterday (January 8).

Denison Witmer/River of Music

Dension Witmer is a singer-songwriter from Lancaster, Pa. According to his artist profile on Apple Music, Tagged by many music journalists as one of the most likely songwriters to fill the void left by Elliott Smith in the acoustic indie singer/songwriter movement, [he] catalogs the experiences of young adulthood in almost painfully honest detail. With a soft and sensitive voice that perfectly matches his laid-back 1970s California pop production and subtly expressive guitar work, he has gone from writing in his journal to becoming an intimate of like-minded artists like Damien Jurado and Pedro the Lion over the span of a few albums. Growing up in Lancaster, PA, Witmer picked up the guitar at the age of 16 and was soon showing enough promise to draw the interest of the Innocence Mission’s Don Peris. As Peris became Witmer’s musical mentor, he would oversee and play guitar and keyboard on his apprentice’s first recordings, 2000’s River Bends EP and the much-heralded Safe Away. Here’s the great River of Music, a track from Witmer’s new EP American Foursquare (Simplified). It surely feels good listening to his soothing voice and beautiful guitar-playing. And the lyrics about the power of music perfectly illustrate what I wrote in the intro of this post.

Morgan Wallen/Livin’ the Dream

Country music singer-songwriter Morgan Wallen, who hails from the tiny Tennessee town of Sneedville (about 250 miles east of Nashville), first gained some prominence as a contestant on season 6 of The Voice in 2014. While Wallen didn’t make it to the final, his stint eventually led to a deal with Panacea Records and his debut EP Stand Alone from August 2015. Wallen switched to Big Loud Records thereafter and released his first full-length studio album If I Know Me in April 2018. Livin’ the Dream is a track from his sophomore release Dangerous: The Double Album. This double album features a hefty 30 tunes, many prominent country songwriters and a guest appearance by Chris Stapleton. Livin’ the Dream, a tale about life as a “rock star,” was co-written by Wallen, Ben Burgess, Jacob Durrett and Michael Wilson Hardy, aka Hardy.

Barry Gibb/To Love Somebody

Yep, that’s Barry Gibb, formerly of the Bee Gees. I recently covered them in a four-part series here (part 1), here (part 2), here (part 3) and here (part 4). All I’d like to say in this post is if you think the Bee Gees were just a disco band, I’d encourage to take a closer look at their music or read my series. Was it necessary for Gibb, the group’s only surviving member, to come out with Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers’ Songbook, Vol 1., an album of newly recorded versions of mostly famous Bee Gees songs? Probably not – on the other hand, why not! The Bee Gees’ catalog is full with well crafted songs. Co-written by Barry Gibb and Robin Gibb, To Love Somebody is among my favorite early Bee Gees tunes. It initially appeared on Bee Gees’ 1st, the group’s first internationally released full-length studio album that was released in July 1967 in the UK and appeared the following month in the U.S. The newly recorded version features Jay Buchanan, lead vocalist of American rock band Rival Sons. The album also includes many other guests, mostly from country music, a favorite genre of Barry’s, such as Little Big Town, Dolly Parton and Sheryl Crow. Be cynical about it, if you like. I dig and stand behind these songs and the Bee Gees!

Aaron Frazer/ If I Got It (Your Love Brought It)

According to his website, Aaron Frazer is a Brooklyn-based, Baltimore-raised songwriter [who] first came into the international spotlight as multi-instrumentalist and co-lead singer for Durand Jones & The Indications. He penned some of the group’s most notable tracks, including ‘Morning In America,’ and sang lead on ‘Is It Any Wonder?’ – the latter an instant sweet soul classic anchored by Aaron’s falsetto, which caught the ear of producer and Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach…Soft-spoken with the look of a slightly disaffected 1950s matinee idol, Aaron Frazer possesses a unique voice that’s both contemporary and timeless. His higher register conveys a wide emotional palate and a progressive worldview in the tradition of musical masterminds like Curtis Mayfield. While Aaron’s stirring falsetto and thoughtful songwriting have made him established in the world of revival soul music, he refuses to be pigeonholed. That falsetto is in beautiful action on If I Got It (Your Love Brought It), a tune from Aaron’s debut album Introducing…, which was produced by Auerbach. The song was co-written by Frazer, Auerbach and David Ferguson. So good! check it out!

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Aaron Frazer website; YouTube

9 thoughts on “Best of What’s New”

  1. The Bee Gee cover album sounds interesting. I love the cover that you have…his voice is very soulful.

    Aaron Frazer sounds really cool. It sounds like a throwback soul kinda thing…I like it….from his voice to the instruments…its right on the button.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t Frazer great? I’m currently listening to the rest of the album. Without meaning to sound stereotypical here, it’s pretty amazing how a young white dude from Brooklyn has so much soul in this voice. It’s really reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye.

      On another note, I’ve been largely absent from the blogosphere this week, not only because of the events in D.C., but I’ve been crazy busy in my job. While I also have to do some work over the weekend, I hope to catch up soon!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes he is on the money…Curtis is a good comparison in the voice and style. It gives me hope for the future to hear him.

        It’s good to see you back Christian…I get it believe me. Many nights I’m not on at all…I just have a lot of posts scheduled…but that doesn’t mean I’m online as much. Work has been crazy for me as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, Max. Scheduling posts is something I haven’t done.

        Most of my blogging is pretty spontaneous without much planning. I guess one exception are the weekly “Best of What’s New” installments.

        I kind of like it that way, even though I realize scheduling posts can help drive traffic and engagement.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Up until aroun 3 weeks ago so was mine…my work though has made it impossible…but what I have always one is do one the night before and schedule it for 6:45 CST the next morning…that way everyone knows when I’m posting.

        Other than that…I have no plan…lol…it’s just whatever comes to my mind.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Christian. The Dension Witmer song is gorgeous. Really enjoyed it. I saw another Barry Gibb song on a different new release playlist – Words of a Fool with Jason Isbell – really good! And I wondered is it THAT Barry Gibb?? Will check out your piece on them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Paul. The Witmer tune is really soothing, which is something I feel we can all need during these crazy times. As for Barry Gibb, I like this album, in part because I think the Bee Gees wrote many great songs, and the new versions sounds nice. To me another highlight on that album is “Lonely Days” with Little Big Town. With all of that being said, I feel most excited about Aaron Frazer.

      Like

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