Release Date: Jul 12, 2011
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
On 2009's Animals in the Dark, Iowa singer and songwriter William Elliott Whitmore departed from his usual tack of documenting life, death, and the landscape in rural America, and took on George W. Bush's administration and its policies. Armed with only a banjo, a guitar, and a drum, the album's songs used history to illustrate how Americans traditionally confront tyranny.
William Elliott Whitmore isn't shy. Straight from the top of Field Songs-- the singer/songwriter's seventh full-length album and second on ANTI--- the farm-raised, cornfed Iowa boy lets you know that he's, well, a farm-raised, cornfed Iowa boy. With a banjo, a few drums and his bellowing, baritone voice, he reminds us who he is, where he comes from and what his music stands for.
We Iowans like to poke fun at the national media when they come to cover local stories, such as the presidential caucuses, and use images of Iowans as family farmers wearing overalls standing in a cornfield. Sure, there are such individuals, but there aren’t many these days. The family farm in Iowa largely disappeared decades ago (Check out Osha Gray Davidson’s excellent Broken Heartland on this topic).
Modern folk acts have created a more accessible version of roots music, blending alt-rock and acoustic, throwing in fiddle or banjo and a raw, raspy voiced frontman. And that’s all well and good. But some artists are still fundamentalists. Taking it back to the simple sounds of a cowboy at a campfire, William Elliott Whitmore is one of those purists.
William Elliott Whitmore is an old-fashioned sort: He's just 33, but his deep, gnarled vocals suggest a particularly well-trod life. A Lee County, Iowa native, Whitmore plays scrappy, acoustic folksongs on banjo (occasionally augmented by a bass drum), singing earnestly about things like hammers, steamboats, and dying. It's embarrassingly easy to picture him attacking logs with an old, rusted ax, or sitting by a campfire chewing on a stick of black licorice.
“Some good it bad, some got it worse. Some just can’t let go no matter how it hurts. But no one, no one can say, that we didn’t do it the hard way.” William Elliott Whitmore’s fifth release may be a “stark representation of rural life” (according to his own website), but these themes run through people’s lives everywhere. Yes, for the most part Field Songs focuses on life on the farm, but this evening time front porch mellow jam could take place just about anywhere, from a farm in the middle of the country to a stoop outside a row home in the city.