Some of the biggest changes in one’s life happen unexpectedly. Michael Leonard Witham, self-proclaimed “picker” found one particular item that caught his eye in the dumpster of an Indiana Mall. The Yamaha acoustic guitar needed little repair before Witham began strumming and singing the nights away, the instrument seemed at home in his presence. Four years later, the self-taught musician releases his debut album, A Scandal in the Violets, October 21, 2014.
Before the Yamaha, Witham had no guitar playing experience, but he had always loved music. Seeing the tides change, he left the blackjack table and followed the way of the guitar. Five months later, he was picked to perform in the Arkansas Times Musician’s Showcase, he was the only solo artist picked among a group of 200. He has since left the Yamaha behind but not the musical spirit he found within it.
Witham was not alone on this venture. While working on recording the album with local superstar Jason Weinheimer, he was introduced to Jesse Aycock, an individual that would greatly help A Scandal in The Violets become what it is. Aycock took to the piano, drums, steel guitar and even harmony vocals. Acquiring the help of another local deity, Greg Spradlin added his own guitar to the album with Keith Destry on keys and bass.
“If it weren’t for naive woman, I’d be bored.”
The Americna melancholy hum of Witham’s guitar does not take center show and does not need to. For many, the vocals will lead the way. The additional piano on tracks like “Defective Heart” and harmonica of “Where the Witches Live” show off the honest beauty that so easily surrounds Witham. His style is the backbone of downtrodden gamblers and men down on their luck, it is the joy of misfortune and the smile of the barkeep.
Some of the more tough and gruff vocals may turn some listeners off. Witham is not offended by this, he himself has called his own voice weird. To give into the Johnny Cash-like vocal simplicity of “Sideways Grin & Wandering Eye” is to pour oneself into the music. For more exposure, listeners can find two tracks on Michael Leonard Witham’s soundcloud page or the entire album can be discovered in pieces on youtube. Big fans of folk are highly encouraged to lend this man an ear, fans of more mainstream music, not so much.
“Everybody knows I got it bad.”
Locked between Bob Dylan and Bright Eyes, Michael Leonard Witham lulls audiences with his rugged rasp and storytelling ways. The folk, country, and rock mixture goes down smooth and peaceful. An impressive debut, Scandal in The Violets offers ten tracks to lend an ear and share your troubles with, starting October 21. Hopefully the album will propel Witham to follow this path and eventually release a follow-up album.
Underground Examinations is a series of Independent Music Reviews with the intention of giving new music a fair and appropriate opportunity to be enjoyed.