CD REVIEW: Dwayna Litz - Still
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Artist: Dwayna Litz
Label: Independent Artist
Contemporary Christian, Pop, Americana
Best Songs: Don’t Pass Him By, ,Soon and Very Soon, By and By
Weakness: Winded Songs, Genera Identity Crisis
Nashville based Singer/Songwriter/Entertainer Dwayna Litz just released her latest CD entitled Still in 2013. Dwayna Litz moved to Nashville at seventeen and after singing demos for major songwriters and beginning to write songs at age twenty, she signed a publishing deal at age twenty-one with Buddy Killen Music. Garnering attention from the major producers on Music Row, she was discovered by sound engineer and producer Mark Miller who worked at Jack’s Tracks Studios owned by Allen Reynolds where they produced and recorded all the Garth Brooks hit songs. Mark recorded masters (soon to come on iTunes) of her singing songs by the best songwriters in Nashville, including Garth Brooks, Pat Alger and Kostas, as Dwayna was around such talent daily in the studio and publishing company owned by famed producer, Allen Reynolds. As she grew as an artist, she found herself writing soulful melodies more in the genre of adult contemporary/ pop love songs. Dwayna had her first cut as a songwriter when Patti LaBelle recorded “Let Me Be There for You” on her Grammy nominated “Flame” album.
The CD quickly takes flight with “Place of Surrender’ a rocking intro groove that serves inviting vocals against full-tilt rhythm section against a mesmerizing vocal front from Litz. Track 2 “Still” presents a heartfelt follow-up piece that serves up smooth as silk musical build, rich melody against impressive guitar ambience a grand slam chorus. This piece flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition making for an impressive follow-up statement. Track 3 “Don’t Pass Him by” my personal favorite serves up an impressive Americana ballad painted against impressive harmonies, hypnotic vocal groove and well placed fretwork As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear the musicianship from everyone involved is clearly above the bar with impressive bass lines, slamming solos, well placed strings, impressive organ accents, piano, thick soulful harmonies all built upon a thick as a brick rhythm section. Song for song the effective combination of Litz’s voice, world class songwriting and top flight musicianship it’s never called into question. Now turning our attention over to Litz, as for her vocal abilities - she is quite impressive indeed. Her musical/vocal style is cut from the cloth of Celine Dion, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, and Shania Twain - but I will add she can go toe to toe with any one of them vocally. Litz showcases a crystal clear vibrato, with an appealing mezzo-soprano persona. All of this makes for a strong and confident vocal ability across the board. I especially like how her voice just sort of flutters melodically with the music. This latest CD from Dwayna Litz delivers 12 compelling tracks all providing an interesting snapshot of a clairvoyant and spiritual artist. All songs deliver thought provoking lyrical wisdom with messages that are positive, passionate and extremely captivating. From funky “Higher Power” to slamming “Old Time Religion” to heartfelt “Honest Life” and “No More Prisoner of Yesterday” to grooving “By and By, to rocking “Livin’ for God Alone, and soulful “Through it All” his CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with track 12 “New Chapter” the perfect wrap for a catalogue like this.
All songs over 3.5 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. It’s fair to say the CD spreads itself way too thin across to many genera’s in its attempt to be everything to everyone. I would recommend Litz narrow the fairway slightly with respect to her overall signature sound. As a result this CD suffers from a mild case of genera identity crisis. In lieu of her past releases and their various musical directions some might categorize some of the aforementioned as a Marketing misstep. If I had to pick 2 genera’s compatible with Lit'z vocal abilities (besides this one) I would pick contemporary Jazz to Contemporary Country - in that order. Both would also work well with her overall vocal style, and persona as an entertainer.
From start to finish this latest release from Dwayna Litz is a powerful, and impressive catalogue of music. The music is very consistent, well-crafted and extremely entertaining. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really weak piece on this entire catalogue. The production strokes: writing and playing abilities of this production are rock solid. The earthy melodies and harmonies are well crafted and the lyrical content is packed to the hilt with rich conventional wisdom and a strong spiritual connection may will gravitate to.