Denison Witmer

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Denison Witmer
Denison Witmer
Denison Witmer
Background information
Birth nameDenison Stuart Witmer[1]
OriginLancaster, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresAcoustic, Folk, Folk Rock, Folk Pop, Alternative, Singer–songwriter
Occupation(s)Songwriter, musician
Years active1995–present
LabelsThe Militia Group
Burnt Toast Vinyl
Velvet Blue Music
Fugitive Recordings
Tooth & Nail Records
Bad Taste Music (Europe)
SPUNK! (Australia)
Ales Music (Korea)
Asthmatic Kitty Records (2012-present)

Denison Witmer is an American singer-songwriter from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States. His first release, in 1995, was a cassette titled My Luck, My Love. He has since released six studio LPs; two live albums, a cover album (Recovered); three EPs; and an LP with The River Bends—a side project consisting of members of the Philadelphia-based alt-country band One Star Hotel. Witmer's 2005 album, Are You A Dreamer?, produced by Don Peris of The Innocence Mission and featuring Sufjan Stevens, received acclaim, including positive reviews from Pitchfork Media[2] and Entertainment Weekly.[3] Witmer and Stevens appeared on Rosie Thomas's 2007 album These Friends of Mine, an album which included Rosie Thomas' version of Paper Doll, a track originally written and recorded by Witmer. Witmer toured with Rosie Thomas in support of that album in venues across the US and Europe.

Witmer's style has been described as "neo-folk."[4] He has also been compared to 1970s-era singer-songerwriters, including Cat Stevens[5] and Nick Drake.[6] Witmer's lyrics are poetic and thoughtful; his guitar work, while simple-sounding, relies on complex fingerpicking.[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

Denison Witmer was born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.[7] He was raised Mennonite and attended Lancaster Mennonite School.[8] His guitar teacher was Don Peris.[9]

Before becoming a full-time musician, Witmer worked in the greenhouse which his family owned.[1]

Witmer's and all of his brothers' full names have the initials "DSW."[1]


My Luck, My Love[edit]

Witmer released a cassette tape titled My Luck, My Love in 1995. The album was recorded as a project for an English class during Witmer's senior year of high school. Only 250 copies were made, and the album was given to family and friends. Though My Luck, My Love is Witmer's first release, he does not view it as his true debut but as the extension of a hobby.[10]

Safe Away[edit]

Witmer released his first album Safe Away in 1998. The album, produced by Don Peris, was first self-released by Witmer. He began playing shows in an effort to sell the one thousand copies produced. The album sold out, and indie label Burnt Toast Vinyl approached Witmer, asking to re-release it.[7]

Safe Away received a positive review from Allmusic: “Witmer proceeds through the setlist with the confidence and generosity of a seasoned songwriter, despite the journal-like candor of his lyrics.”[11]

Of Joy & Sorrow[edit]

Of Joy & Sorrow was released in 2001. Witmer attempted to make the album more accessible and straightforward than his first: "I feel a little bit more tangible, I feel a little less obscure. It's not another record about breaking up with someone. It's not another record about losing that one particular person."[1] Concerning the album's influences, he noted, "I was listening to a lot of ‘70s singer/songwriter stuff like Jackson Brown and Carol King and Neil Young and Van Morrison and I was going for a little bit of that style."[12]

The title Of Joy & Sorrow comes from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran: “Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow. And he answered: [...] Some of you say, 'Joy is greater than sorrow,' and others say, 'Nay, sorrow is the greater.' But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.”[13] Witmer stated, "I want to experience every emotion as fully as possible. [...] Sorrow has encouraged me to never take my joy for granted."[10]

Philadelphia Songs[edit]

Witmer released his third album, Philadelphia Songs, in 2002. The album was influenced by Witmer's experience moving from a small town to a big city for the first time. Witmer had a difficult time adjusting to having most of his time taken up by an office job and losing inspiration, and the album was about the ups and downs of young adult life and.[10][14]

Whereas Safe Away was guitar and vocals and Of Joy & Sorrow was more orchestrated, Witmer stated that Philadelphia Songs strikes a balance between his first two albums: “I just feel like I accomplished something that I’ve been trying to accomplish for a while.”[14]

The album was produced by Blake Wescott and features instrumental work by The Six Parts Seven.[9][12][15]


Witmer released a covers album titled Recovered in 2003.

Are You a Dreamer?[edit]

Witmer's fifth album, Are You a Dreamer?, was released in 2005. It was produced by Don Peris who, along with Karen Peris, contributed instrumental and vocal work.

Are You a Dreamer? received a B+ review score from Entertainment Weekly: “His brand of happy anachronism is easy enough to fall into — if you can slow down long enough to enjoy it.”[3]

In 2006, The Militia Group label re-issued his first album Safe Away as a special two-disc edition with new artwork and a bonus EP.[16]

On his 30th birthday in November 2006, Witmer began offering 30 of his songs (and 3 "bonus" songs) for free on a website called Happy Birthday Denison. They were new acoustic renditions of previously released songs, covers, and new offerings. Witmer intended to offer a new free song every year on his birthday. However, the website (previously located at is now down. Happy Birthday Denison served as a fundraiser for Partners In Health and Musicians On Call, though no donations were required in order to download the songs.[16][17]

Carry the Weight[edit]

Witmer released Carry the Weight in 2008. Produced at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, the album was Witmer's attempt at a “real studio album.” Carry the Weight features James McAlister and Rosie Thomas on most songs, and Noah Harris.[9][18]

The Ones Who Wait[edit]

The Ones Who Wait was first available in 2011 under the Mono Vs Stereo label. It received a wider release in 2012 after Witmer signed with Asthmatic Kitty Records.[19]

In Witmer's own words, the album is about “patience and reverence. Being mindful and open to what you’re experiencing. A desire to take hold of what’s happening in your life, yet trusting the mystery of it enough to let go and participate rather than dictate.”[20]

The album grew from an EP to a full-length album, described by Witmer as an “accidental record.” It was influenced by landmarks in Witmer's life, including his marriage, his father's death, and his first child's birth.[8][20]

CJ Camerieri, Devin Greenwood, James McAlister, Charles Staub, and Rosie Thomas contributed to The Ones Who Wait.[20]


Date of
Title Label
1998 Safe Away Burnt Toast Vinyl, The Militia Group (2006 re-release)[21]
1999 River Bends EP Velvet Blue Music
2001 The '80s EP Burnt Toast Vinyl
2001 Of Joy & Sorrow Burnt Toast Vinyl
2002 Denison Witmer Live Burnt Toast Vinyl
2002 Philadelphia Songs Burnt Toast Vinyl, Bad Taste Records (2004 re-release)[22]
2003 Recovered Fugitive Recordings
2005 The River Bends ...And Flows Into the Sea Bad Taste Records[23]
2005 Are You a Dreamer? The Militia Group
2008 Carry the Weight The Militia Group
2012 The Ones Who Wait Asthmatic Kitty Records, Mono Vs Stereo (2011 limited release)[19]
2013 Denison Witmer Asthmatic Kitty Records


  1. ^ a b c d "Denison Witmer Interview". Retrieved 2012-05-06.
  2. ^ "Denison Witmer: Are You a Dreamer?: Pitchfork Record Review". Archived from the original on 2008-02-03. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  3. ^ a b "Music Review: Are You a Dreamer?, by Denison Witmer". Entertainment Weekly. 2005-08-05.
  4. ^ "FWWeekly: Listen Up: Denison Witmer". Archived from the original on 2007-10-05. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  5. ^ "Treble : Album Review : Denison Witmer - Are You a Dreamer?". Archived from the original on 2009-09-03. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  6. ^ "Beautiful House Gallery Lounge | Denison Witmer - Recovered". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  7. ^ a b "Denison Witmer – Is he a singer-songwriter? « Americana and Roots Music - No Depression". Archived from the original on 2012-10-23. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  8. ^ a b "The SojoMusic Interview: Denison Witmer, 'Creating Space Where Truth Can Move' - Joshua Witchger". Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  9. ^ a b c "INTERVIEW: Denison Witmer". American Songwriter. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  10. ^ a b c "Denison Witmer :: le interviste di Onda Rock". Retrieved 2012-05-06.
  11. ^ "Safe Away - Denison Witmer". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  12. ^ a b "Denison Witmer Interview - a Feature of The Phantom Tollbooth".
  13. ^ Prophet - Kahlil Gibran - Google Books. p. 16. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  14. ^ a b "His Philadelphia :: Music :: Features". Retrieved 2012-05-20.
  15. ^ "The Six Parts Seven :: The Attitudes of Collapse". Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  16. ^ a b "Denison Witmer ready to record new album :: Music :: News". Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  17. ^ "Denison Witmer - Happy Birthday Denison (File, MP3)". Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  18. ^ "Catching Up With... Denison Witmer :: Music :: Features :: Paste". Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  19. ^ a b "Denison Witmer Signs to Asthmatic Kitty :: Music :: News :: Paste". Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  20. ^ a b c "Asthmatic Kitty Records : Denison Witmer » The Ones Who Wait". Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  21. ^ "Denison Witmer - Safe Away (CD, Album) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  22. ^ "Denison Witmer - Philadelphia Songs (CD, Album) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  23. ^ "Records / Denison Witmer / The River Bends ...And Flows Into The Sea BTR 88 - Bad Taste Records". Archived from the original on 2010-08-25. Retrieved 2012-05-27.

External links[edit]