Holding Back The Levee sounds like an album that has been crafted by a songwriter who knows the importance of allowing songs the space to breathe and their melodies and phrasing to shine. Mitch has clearly studied the masters and has a strong admiration for songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Gary Louris (The Jayhawks), Neil Young and Kevin Bennett. As such, it was clearly a thrill and honour to have Bennett sing guest vocals on the album title track.
“We (The Distance) used to support his band The Flood when they’d come to VIC for shows, and if we weren’t supporting we’d still go along to see him play. I’ve always kept in contract with KB over the years, he’s a great supporter of the next generation of songwriters and performers and he’s always been so encouraging. Years ago I asked him if I ever did an album would there be a chance he could sing on it and even after all these years he stayed true to his word and made it happen for me, he’s an absolute legend!”
That song is a mid-album anchor of grit and grace – the centrepiece that rocks and rolls a little harder than it’s surrounding songs. It’s a sign of the range that Mitch, producer Colin Leadbetter and the musicians were able to bring to the album. They recorded primarily at two Melbourne studios (The Aviary, EOR Studio) and utilised a number of home studios for vocals and piano.
On album opener, and first single, ‘A Face In A Long Line’, Mitch’s keening, high and lonesome voice takes centre-stage – supple and soulful like an Antipodean Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes). Elsewhere he invests just the right amount of six-string bite and shimmer in the tragic tale of ‘His Father’s Gun’, picks up the pace with freight train drumming and bluesy harmonica on the Dylanesque romp of ‘It’s In The Stream’ and testifies to the power of keeping an open heart in a strong relationship on ‘Let It Fall’. ‘What Can Go Wrong?’ throws caution to the wind with optimism, silver linings and a killer guitar solo, while ‘Please Don’t Wake Me’ is perfectly cast through a dreamy, cosmic country lens.
These are songs that unfurl with economy and endless, instantly hummable melodies. Combined with the gentle gravitational pull of the rhythm section it’s the sound of lazy Sunday afternoons and a custom-made soundtrack to rolling down sun-kissed ocean highways.
Mitch Dean – acoustic guitar, harp, lead vocal
Damian Cafarella (Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes) – drums and electric guitar
James Gillard (The Flood, Mental As Anything) – bass and backing vocals
Sam See (Sherbert, John Farnham) – piano and organ
Kevin Bennett – vocal on ‘Holding Back The Levee’