A LABOR OF LOVE… A Review of “Frames” by Lee DeWyze

After a euphoric live interpretation of Lee DeWyze’s new album “Frames” Tuesday night, celebrating the album’s release at the historic Hotel Café in Los Angeles, I couldn’t think of a more fitting time to review this true labor of love. The band, complete with violin, stand up base, mandolin, guitar, trumpet and drums came together cohesively to create a vibe longtime fans and new fans alike will never forget. For a glimpse of this incredible night, check out this astounding performance of “Fire Away”…

Lee DeWyze’s new album “Frames” is just that… a labor of love fueled by his passion for music, the enthusiasm and support from fans, and his beautiful wife Jonna who has been a driving force of inspiration and support along this journey.

DeWyze’s first major label album release “Live It Up” followed his win on American Idol season 9. This was not Lee’s first walk in the park which is why I was surprised by the sound of “Live It Up. I remember sitting in my car awaiting the first spin of Sweet Serendipity on the radio and the perplexing thoughts that ran through my mind. I wanted to love it. It wasn’t until I experienced “Live It Up” in a live setting that I began to appreciate the artistic depths of it as Lee transformed each of the songs into a sound I recognized. The storytelling I knew and loved from Lee was certainly there and now, in the live setting away from all the “cooks in the kitchen”, Lee was able to put his twist on each song which has been labeled by his fans as “Lee Style”. To hear what I’m talking about, check out Lee’s two pre-Idol independent albums “So I’m Told” and “Slumberland”.

DeWyze has been laboring for the last year and a half writing his NEW album “Frames” released on Vanguard Records on August 20th. As stated in recent interviews, the writing process began before he was signed to Vanguard. As he waited for the stars to align, he just let the creative juices flow organically. During this time fans encouraged and supported him, waiting patiently for the release of an album that was 100% him. Lee has often referred to his fans as the “fuel” of this engine. It just goes to show that positive voices speak louder than negative ones and belief is a vehicle that drives passionate dreams.

Vanguard Records believed in this project, they believed in the music and they believed in Lee. The ride began early this year when Lee and Vanguard joined forces… and the ride has just begun!

Lee knew exactly what his fans wanted and he surely delivered the goods. Fans have often told him that they would love a “Live” album. The DELUXE version of “Frames” not only gives you the beautifully orchestrated studio versions, but acoustic versions of every single track which emulates that “Live” vibe. The magical thing is he makes every song sound different and unique. This is a testament to his ability to evolve his music and make it fresh. Although I’ve heard many of these songs before, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s almost as if this album was unveiled slowly, first with some home video recorded versions Lee posted on telly.com to give a taste or a test drive if you will. He followed up with live performances during his “Acoustic Duo Tour” including songs that would ultimately end up on “Frames”. At one point, I thought to myself, I’ve pretty much heard the entire album. What am I going to have to look forward to when it is finally released? Let me just say I was not disappointed.

DeWyze has stated several times that for him, it’s about the music. Therefore, I want to focus on the music as I review the album. I am not a musician therefore I am unable to comment on the technical aspects, therefore I’ll be reviewing from a consumer perspective.

Six of the thirteen tracks were solely written by DeWyze, while the remaining tracks included collaborations with such writers as Drew Pearson and Toby Gad. Personally, I was drawn to the stories in the lyrics which evoked a plethora of emotions. Lee paints a picture of broken relationships and self-discovery. Songs such as Silver Lining, Open Your Eyes, The Ride, Don’t Be Afraid and Breathing In send a message of optimism and perseverance. Then you have a song like Fire Away that communicates ones courage to overcome adversity. I felt the acoustic tracks showcased Lee’s smokey raspy voice. However the addition of strings, horns and keys really gives the album depth and vulnerability. The only disappointment was the version of The Ride where Lee’s engaging voice seems to have been muffled. I especially enjoyed the new twist on Open Your Eyes. Originally, it was a more fast paced song. Lee slowed it down and gave it a heavenly intro. The repetitive pulsing keys, backing vocals and harmonies really give it a calming effect. I do prefer the instrumental slow version of this song. The one four letter word DeWyze does use in Frames accentuates a feeling of vulnerability and realization of ones mistakes, therefore it fits the story of the song rather than coming across as offensive. You know those albums that have one or two really good tracks? Well to pick a favorite would be impossible. I was truly blown away by this album.

Given the current trend of popular music where some artist choose to communicate negativity, promote promiscuity and other undesirable messages through their music and call it art; I am pleased that Lee has not conformed. This album is truly a breath of fresh air. It’s relatable and might I add a great soundtrack for a backyard BBQ!?  Check it out!

Preview it here http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop-shop/5646512/lee-dewyzes-frames-exclusive-album-premiere

Frames is available on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/frames-deluxe/id673389365

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