Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
When Denison Witmer visits us - as he's done twice now - we know full well that he'd rather be elsewhere. We commiserate with him. We take no offense. He's got his heart in the right place. It's at home, with his wife and son. When he comes to visit us, he's out on the long slog and either painfully just getting started or just as painfully, mere days away from getting back to the people who mean the most to him. The one thing that must keep him going is getting to play the songs that he writes every night - these songs that are so filled with deeply personal anecdotes and sentiments. They are the intimate thoughts that he can't bottle up. They're too much a part of all that he's thinking of when he's lonely on the road. It's a difficult place to write - the road - but the longing and some of the pain that comes through in these somber folk-pop songs seems as if it must have come to him in a depressing hotel room, in some city far from home, at a time of the night when he knew that they were sound asleep and there he was trying unsuccessfully to find something to eat when everything around him had already been shut down for the night. He knows that if he made a call home, no matter what the hour, there would be have been a smile and groggy, but pleasant voice on the other end, but he lets them sleep and just sits on that questionable comforter thinking about them, counting down the days. He writes so lovingly about his loves and the things that he cherishes in his songs that this MUST be how he operates. It must be how he agonizes his way through the times that he has to spend apart from them. He remembers things like how the light was falling when he first met someone, where it struck and what it did to the moment. So many of his songs are such touching love stories, but the love is hurting. One or more of the people are hurting. He seems to go through these motions of reminding himself of what he has. It's not as if he's ever worried of going astray or forgetting, but more like the inventory of all that's good in his life just reminds him of what he's missing out on, even when he's out doing everything he's doing for them. He seems to understand all too well the nature of the double-edged sword. He seems to be writing about his wife over and again, constantly touching up the framed portrait of her that he has hanging mentally everywhere he goes. He sings on, "Light On My Face," "Nothing replaces you now/Nobody knows how/Nothing replaces you now/No one and no how." It's pretty definitive. You fall apart a little when he's at it again, singing, "We fill those rooms between us/Every day we die unto ourselves/I counted up my blessings/I signed my name across you/I took yours upon myself/I'll be your friend." When he sings those words in front of us, we nearly kick him out and just tell him to cancel the last couple days of the tour, leave William Fitzsimmons to fend for his damn self and just speed home as quickly as he possibly can.