Iowan farmer shows his roots and talent in new album
Born in 1978, William Elliot Whitmore is a country and folk singer with strong ties to his homeland in rural southeastern Iowa. His music reflects his rustic upbringing with a voice that shows his maturity and ruggedness. Writing mostly about his life and the human condition, he channels pain from his parent’s death and farm lifestyle into each and every song. Sorrowed guitar ballads, kicking bluegrass anthems and outlaw-style country music are all in his vast repertoire.
Since 1999, Whitmore has been releasing albums almost bi-annually beginning with his first record, The Jarrett Mitchell Demo Album. Recently, he has slowed down his production with his new 2020 album being only his third release since 2011. His new album, I’m With You, shows Whitmore’s musical intelligence and years in the industry.
Whitmore starts the record with “Put It to Use,” a record reminiscent of early 1900s mountain music. Beginning with a driving kick drum and an old, tinny-sounding banjo, the sound is then joined by Whitmore’s midwestern rasp. He goes on to delve into family and what each member does for people as humans. His father taught him that “the sky ain’t fallin,’” his mother “raised him up well,” his grandma “showed him what was wrong from right” and his grandfather taught him to be a “hard working man.”
The next track on the album goes on to contrast the first in its energy, but continues along the same reflective path. “Solar Flare” takes the expression “three chords and the truth” literally. Featuring only an acoustic guitar, Whitmore discusses feeling content with his life even if the world ended tomorrow.
Whitmore changes it up again in another high point on the album, “My Mind Can Be Cruel to Me.” Steel guitars and a slowed tempo are reminiscent of the Outlaw and even Pre-Outlaw eras of country music in the mid-1900s. This being his most popular song on the album thus far, it is no wonder. “My Mind Can Be Cruel to Me” sounds as if George Jones had somehow gotten ahold of a Sturgill Simpson record and did his own cover of it.
Although this may not be people’s favorite, “MK Ultra Blues” is worth noting. Whitmore gives his historical take on the infamous 1953 CIA Mind Control operation MK Ultra. Yes, it’s a fascinating idea and fun to hear about, but Whitmore’s cadence is highly similar to Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue.” This song is worth checking out, yet it must be taken with a grain of salt.
This slight dip in the record comes with a rebound in its song, “Save Ourselves.” A beautifully classic country tune filled with crying guitars, minor chords and lamentations on life, this particular track is what may well be the best song on the entire album. Whitmore bares himself and depicts the human dependency to forget everything and everyone and “save ourselves.”
Overall, Whitmore did another amazing job with I’m With You. Always interesting and engaging, he is able to keep his loyal fans through his smart writing. This writing is backed up by melodies and ideas that remind one of the rural Iowa farm that he came from.