In the Tarot, the Ten of Swords card appears to be a bit of bleak little fellow. At first, the card foretells of a relentless attack from life, but in the same breath speaks of how things can only get better from here. In Chicago, Ten of Swords
is Adam Hitchell’s newest project and tells the story of how he has braved the darkness and is finally seeing life’s dawn in his first full album, Dry Spell
Hitchell utilized more than just his own expertise on this indie, alt-country record. He was able to assemble a small army of some of Chicago’s most talented singer/song writers to appear on the album. You can hear the perfect tones of Arthi Meera’s (Fair and Kind
) vocals, the passion of Ryan Suzuka
on harmonica and Chrstine Knodle
(who played with American Idol contestant Crystal Bowesox) with her quietly commanding violin, all backing Hitchell and his golden voice in Dry Spell
Hitchell has one of my favorite voices among the singer/song writer crowd in Chicago. His solid tenor pitch holds an unmistakable husky shyness that leaves you craving more. His songs are not fussy but take simplicity to a powerful level and can be just as passionate with or without a full band.
opens with a very simple, yet very catchy song called “Broken Bottle”. Hitchell’s breath-taking tenor voice carries effortlessly over the minimal drum beat, organ and bending and swaying of the lead guitar. This song as well as the rest of the album has an early Wilco influence, yet Hitchell still makes it all his own. Additionally, both Benny Harnish on bass and Chresten Hyde as a dummer/guitarist/keyboardist as well as backing vocalist to join Hitchell in Ten of Swords to bring a touch of rock to his alt-country stylings. Hyde’s distant wailing vocals in this song and harder guitar riffs compliment Hitchell and Harnish’s bass nicely fills out the foundation.
“Everybody Knows”, I recognize from seeing Hitchell live. Even though the song has an over all bleak mood, Hitchell is smart about keeping a slightly driving tempo to keep it from dragging along. Just like his own fiery, bluesy vocals, Suzuka is able to master the wailing emotion of his blues harp and adds passion to the song. Hitchell also sings some of the best lyrics on the album in this song as he almost whispers, “Everybody knows this is how it goes, Everybody sees that is what you mean, How did we get in to the state we’re in? Where everybody knows, Yeah and everybody’s been.”
“Medicine” is the first to spotlight Knodle on violin and Michell Morales on cello. Together, Knodle and Morales add to the richer tones to the vocals, while the lead guitar turns the song into a lazy, smooth ballad. It’s about as country as the album gets with slow and deliberate musical motions, but all the little nooks are filled with strings, acoustic strumming and cymbal crashes. It’s genius how complex the entire song sounds with everything added in but isn’t so busy that it loses simplicity.
The heavenly backing harmonies of Meera are featured in “Things We Never Say”. The upbeat, yet soft song is perfect for her voice. Although I’m relatively sure that Meera could back a chainsaw and still make it sound wonderful, Hitchell’s and Meera’s vocals seem to be made for each other. They playfully go back and forth in this bittersweet song, which is reminiscent of musicians like Cat Power, Feist and Stars.
“On Holiday” is a little more savage than the rest of the album, but that might just make it the best. A bluesier, rock approach hangs in Hitchell's voice while the guitar thrashes a little more than normal on the guitar. Once again, Suzuka backs him with harmonica, this time bringing in a heavy, intense resonance that rounds out the song's atmosphere. “On Holiday” shows diversity as it’s a different sound and makes me think we have many more layers to peel back on this complex musician.
Throughout the rest of Dry Spell
, Hitchell bravely takes you through love, fear and the angst in his life in brilliantly created song form. The way he unabashedly has opened himself up to us with Dry Spell
is as breathtaking as it is commendable.
Catch Ten of Swords on Saturday, August 7 at the Beat Kitchen for the CD release party!
By Britni Day \ comments