Who is William Elliot Whitmore? He’s the real thing. That’s so much more complete a description than to say he’s a blues/folk banjo player. Because his voice would make the devil jealous and bring tears from the hardest man. He’s hope in the dust, a wise man whose songs sound as old as the Earth.
And when you see his picture you’ll realize something even more astounding: He’s a white guy!
The album begins with “Mutiny,” a marching song that begins, “It’s a Goddamn shame what’s going down/How it got to this I just don’t know/There’s a sick sick wind that’s going around/And the captive’s got to go.” When gets to the chorus, singing about how he wants to wrap his hands around the captain’s “crooked neck,” and declare a mutiny, he could be singing about the state of the America today, during 1943, the Civil War . . . Or he could be recording a tune for a soundtrack to the next Pirates of the Carribean movie. (No. Wait. It’s way too good for that.) The song sounds traditional, like William Johnson or Blind Gary Davis or Willie Dixon, until Whitmore cries, “We don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn.” He follows up this inspiration, get-on-your-feet-and-stomp tune with a quieter, acoustic guitar number called, “Who Stole the Soul?” It’s equally inspiring, but full of sorrow–“They won’t stop/’Til all the good men are in jail.” Every song is like these two opening numbers. Whitmore sings of the pain of the downtrodden, like Woody Guthrie and Tupac Shakur, together, in the voice of a man who bears the weight of the world.
This is an astoundingly rich album, an experience akin to Springsteen’s Nebraska in the way that it claims the ground not only of country and Americana and country rock, but also of blues, folk, and awesome power.
If you don’t like this album, you just don’t love music. Period.