A Full Package
With the distinction of having one foot solidly in the folk/blues/country realm and another toe dipped into the punk community, William Elliott Whitmore’s latest studio output finds the talented singer/songwriter/banjoist branching out from his typical solo act and teaming up with musical friends. The result is a quality package that fits like a glove.
The strongest suit of the album, produced by W.E. Whitmore and Luke Tweedy, is masterful curation; the tracks work together as a journey. Opening tune “Healing to Do” grabs the listener and thrusts them through the door. When it’s time to exit with “Ain’t Gone Yet,” it’s the logical destination: full instrumentation, back up singers, more soul and a surprise turn from a reflective 6/8 medium/slow groove to an uptempo reprise eventually fading out.
Ranging from full backing band, to solo voice and banjo, and everything between with guest bassists, organists, vocalists and drummers, no two tracks sound the same. For example, a slow “Go On Home,” which feels like the end of the night at a bar when not totally drunk, just miserable, jumps right into the reenergizing “Don’t Strike Me Down,” with a rock vibe, full drum kit, piano and electric guitar. As a result, Whitmore’s variety creates an experience that fits together like a puzzle.
Much of Radium Death’s material has been stylistically covered before and isn’t terribly innovative, though it’s all certainly well-executed. “No matter what you do, / don’t let him get the best of you” or “Just say you’ll be with me for all time” are pretty generic lyrical fare. The timbre of Whitmore’s voice, like many other talented male artists on the scene, adjusts from a grungier tone for a rock-inspired tune to nasally phrase endings on tracks orienting themselves towards the country genre. Luckily, the album’s organization showcases what could perhaps otherwise be written off as generic.
Overall, William Elliott Whitmore’s Radium Death is a musical bright spot. Whatever the record lacks in standout singularity, it makes up for with superb musicianship and an exceptionally ordered track listing for maximum listening experience.