Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Nashville musician Keegan DeWitt came to us earlier in the spring, all weary-boned and saggy lidded, having driven straight from Nashville, Tennessee, for this taping and a show later in the evening at the pizza parlor below our humble confines. He then got into the van to drive straight back home through the night so that one of his travel partners could be at a nannying gig at 8:30 a.m. and they needed every second of available time to get there. He brought with him a quartet of string players and it brought up a very good point: A man, with the Randy Newman-esque voice and husky love-abiding lyrics of DeWitt, should make every effort to do all of his traveling with similar company, even if one-fourth of that traveling company would make a return trip nearly obscene. His band of pretty ladies, with their arched fingers and their cathedral tones, were the most pristine complement to the innocent and sweet words of love's lovely turbulence, which boomed from his throat like a dessert car on a locomotive. The combination of sounds - DeWitt's voice, the stringed harmonies, the backing vocals, a wood-fire guitar pushing out its kisses and bear hugs - is spellbinding and knee-locking. It makes you stand there, slack-jawed and wobbly as if the room were filled with aerosol gases and solvents. It's the kind of natural high that springs from a day of dipping into a crystal clear lake with friends, a relaxing piece of conversation and a drink, then falling hard away to a well-earned and satisfied slumber. It's in seeing a blinding bit of sunlight cutting through the clouds and opening upon a scenic view that spreads out for dozens of miles and there's not another sound around, but the shuffling of your own feet and pockets. You can see the trees down that gully and they look like pillows, not anything that would scrape the skin from your forearms if you were to jump into them. It's the beauty about the distance, how it softens everything and creates an inviting landscape that might be drinkable. DeWitt writes his songs with such a gentle touch - the odes and the ballads that wave like flannel sheets drying in the breeze - that they buzz down to you, swooping into your cheeks and for ear whispers, the way fireflies might if they were more social. The songs are mystics themselves, making times of sweetnesses and golden lights, asking us to just pull up a chair around the glowing and the flames, all of which is good for us, all of which will make our skin shine and be more elastic. They are pieces of music that offer a redefinition to a head and a soul if a day is going into the gutter or if it's already there. Somehow, no matter if you're a believer, as far from one as possible or you split the difference, they make you think about an afterlife where there are trumpets, no stains, pleasant smiles and green, green grass at every turn. DeWitt sings, "Where are all the hidden tongues that speak to me," and he can't be meaning snakes or the other forked tongues that are famously out there speaking under their breaths, but rather the angelic forces that he pays the most attention to.