First time around, Lee DeWyze sounded like a fusion of Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, and John Mayer -- a commercial enough mix that nevertheless failed to spark much interest, even though the singer/songwriter had just won the ninth season of American Idol. Three years on, when Lee DeWyze delivered his second major-label album Frames in the summer of 2013, guys with acoustic guitars were all the rage, but there's a difference. No longer were sensitive singer/songwriters strumming their guitars; instead, the mainstream was filled with big-footed acoustic stomps, a sound pioneered by Mumford & Sons. Savvy guy that he is, DeWyze reimagines himself as one of these rowdy roots renegades on Frames, opening up the album with "Fight," a song that flies into overdrive as soon as the drums start crashing and the chorus starts chanting. "Fight" is hardly the only song with a Lumineers luster. Much of the first half of Frames is devoted to clanging acoustic guitars and syncopated, foot-stamping rhythms, and DeWyze eagerly throws himself into the fray, roaring these songs like a true believer. Of course, he's equally committed to the slight feints at Coldplay-styled arena rock, and also sounds convincing on the pure pop songs "You Don't Know Me" and "The Ride," big tuneful, Beatlesque numbers that are the catchiest things here. That they're also the best kind of undercuts the impression that DeWyze is now a be-vested troubadour, but it doesn't really matter as the unstated thesis on Frames is that the Am Idol winner will do anything for a hit. He's wisely placed most of his chips on Mumford/Lumineers, but he has a stack riding on hook-laden AAA pop; if either happen to get him where he wants to be, he'll be fine with that and will roll with the changes next time around.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine