Friday, December 4, 2015

Wendy DeWitt and Kirk Harwood Plot a Near Perfect Getaway

It’s no secret that the Professor loves that old school sound. I don’t have a problem with artists stretching the boundaries of the music we all love – heck, that’s what artists are supposed to do. But for my money, you just can’t beat a sound that reaches into your soul gets ahold and won’t let go. Whether it’s blues, country, bluegrass, gospel, or that hybrid they call Americana – you just know it when the song starts.
I’ve been listening to a lot of different artists lately searching for that sound and knowing that I’ve got it somewhere in this big pile on my desk. Time to shut the door, put on a kettle for tea, and let the cares of the world disappear for a few hours while I go looking for something that I have faith will be in one of these padded envelops.
I go through two or three and sample the first couple of songs. They’re not bad, but not quite what I’m looking for. I put them over to one side so I can evaluate them a little later and pick up one from my friend who sends me some of the best performers on the planet.
I’m not familiar with Wendy DeWitt and Kirk Harwood when I put their CD GETAWAY into the player. Within a few bars I am hooked. Absolutely hooked. This is the exact sound for which I have been searching. DeWitt’s vocals coupled with her beautiful piano and Hammond Organ playing are heavenly and are perfectly matched by Harwood’s percussion.
They are joined by Steve Freund on guitar, Steve Evans on bass, Mike Rinta on trombone, Tom Poole on trumpet, and Keith Crossan on tenor sax. DeWitt wrote all but three of the songs on the album.
Yeah, this is it. The other packages can wait while I listen to this one for a while.
Sonoma County kicks of the CD with some serious boogie woogie. It’s that left hand on the keyboards that pulls me in immediately. She throws her horn section to the forefront almost immediately letting you know this is definitely a hard driving west coast sounding album. I’m already into it and loving this sound.
Then we move to Treat A Woman, a bouncy swing number that gives DeWitt the opportunity to stretch her vocals. She gets into Janis Joplin territory with her growling scream, but keeps it completely under control.
DeWitt slows things down nicely with Sometimes I Wonder, a deep soulful ballad driven by Harwood’s percussion and her own sparse piano. This is a beautiful number and truly shows off her vocal prowess.
Built To Last continues the slow pace, but she’s so controlled and you can feel the gospel sliding in to add spice and fervor to her voice. She has added organ to her piano in order to change the tone and it’s a nice effect.
Chuck Willis’ Feel So Bad is the second longest track on the album with Freund’s guitar taking an extended lead. It’s a great bluesy jazzy number that you could just see the band extending while playing live. DeWitt’s voice dips and drops and then soars to heaven making this an incredible number. Love it.
Big Joe Turner’s 29 Ways is next and DeWitt gives it that growl that just makes the song come alive. Once again Freund demonstrates his ability with the pyrotechnics as he tears through the lead.  
DeWitt and Harwood then perform Folks Like You, a song written by Robert Thomas and Steve Martin Freund. It has an old school duet sound with DeWitt running a little boogie piano behind it and letting Freund pick out a couple of leads. It’s a fun slower paced song.
They keep the slower pace going with I Want To Believe You, a plaintive number of a woman trying so hard to believe her man but the evidence just won’t let her. Harwood keeps the tempo slow and Freund has several nice fills, but it’s DeWitt’s voice that lights the flame of this torch song.
Never Be Too Much picks up the pace with Harwood laying down a steady beat giving DeWitt the opportunity to barrelhouse her piano. This is a smoky little number that gets you up and moving around.
Another up tempo number Trouble is next and you can hear her left hand pounding that bass. The horn section adds a little swing to the number and takes it over the edge. A terrific quick song.
She closes out the CD with Everybody’s Crying For Something. It’s a medium tempo song that showcases her amazing vocals even further. It’s a nice way to end the CD and leaves us wanting some more.
This is a solid album and a great way to send an afternoon. By the time I had gotten to the end, I knew that I had completely forgotten my tea and that I had a new album to put on the juke box. It’s going to get a lot of play there and on Time For The Blues.
After I listened to the CD and wrote up my thoughts, I went to her website and within five minutes I was slapping myself in the forehead. How could I have forgotten that they were finalists at the IBC in 2014? A little senility settling in the Professor’s brain, I guess.
She is known as The Queen of Boogie Woogie in her hometown, the Bay Area (and anywhere else she’s played I guess). You’ll get no argument from me – she’s got a great sound and I’ll be looking for more of her CDs right away.

In the meantime I’ll be listening to GETAWAY and you should too.

(Images lovingly borrowed from Wendy DeWitt's website, http://www.wendydewitt.com/, you should go there and read all about her. If you are the copyright holder and want me to remove the pictures, contact me and I will be happy to comply. No I won't, I'll comply, but I won't be happy...)

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