River Bends ... And Flows Into The Sea

After last year’s criminally overlooked Philadelphia Songs, Denison Witmer is quietly but persistently building a case to assume Elliott Smith’s vacated place as America’s tragic songwriting genius. On this release Witmer shares equal billing with his backing band for the first time, a combination that has produced another beautifully-crafted, melancholic gem. Witmer remains preoccupied with lost love, but unlike his previous collection, which evoked a vivid picture of urban disenchantment, Into The Sea’s approach seems more universal. Titles like "Looking For You,” "Are You Lonely?” and "I Love You April,” might say it all, but Witmer has definitely had enough practice at articulating heartbreak that anyone who has experienced even a second of those emotions will be hard-pressed to find a maudlin moment on this album. Likewise, it would be easy for the band to turn each song into a country weeper, but throughout, the music borrows heavily from Smith’s dynamic arrangements, alternating between full-on rock, and bare-bones acoustics augmented by organ and pedal steel swells. At a time when it seems that subtlety is in decline in alt-rock, Witmer and the River Bends are boldly flying the flag for sensitive guys everywhere. And for those of us who fall into the category, it’s heartening to have a voice as eloquent as Witmer’s out there speaking on our behalf. (Tooth and Nail)