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CD Shorts: Doug Hewitt

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Roots in the Sky

(Motif)

Doug Hewitt, who’s been gigging regularly in these parts for quite a while, just released the disc Roots in the Sky. It’s a disc with few cousins on the Valley scene. That’s because it’s got an unusual, sharply focused aesthetic. In many respects, Roots in the Sky sounds like a product of the ’70s—not, of course, that hearkening to an earlier era is necessarily a bad thing. It’s more that the sprawling, multi-layered production brings to mind lush radio hits, and isn’t the stuff of stripped-down or lo-fi bands.

Horns and strings swell, guitar lines wind through, and harmony vocals predominate. The tunes tend to fall into a medium-tempo comfortableness, and are nearly all infused with a jazz sensibility. That sensibility shows up in the unexpected intervals that melodies navigate, often at the ends of phrases. Hewitt rides a divide between jazz and pop, often veering strongly toward jazz with horn solos and instrumental passages, but maintaining a focus on vocal melody as the thread that ties the whole together.

All that big production and all those layers of sound took a lot of studio time—Hewitt says the album was recorded over a six-year span, from 2007 to 2013. Though Hewitt plays several instruments, the effort also required the help of a long list of musicians, including, among others, Ariel Parkington, Bill Shontz, Dave Bilodeau, Rudi Weeks, Stephen Katz, Danielle Lorenzo and Megan Rollins.•

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