William Elliott Whitmore

William Elliott Whitmore
Field Songs


By Elliott Morehardt
October 2011

It’s not always easy to write about things that have a spiritual bent, especially if that thing is music, but here goes. The ever-persistent spirit of American roots music is alive and well in the name of William Elliott Whitmore. Only introduced to this young and prolific songwriter recently, I had the pleasure to listen live, interview, and now review his most recent recording.

Field Songs is Whitmore’s bare-bones homage to all that ails the very ground we stand on. Will’s heart is in the land and perhaps more selfishly in his farm on the banks of Iowa’s Mississippi river. The recording gently pulses throughout with rural sounds … almost as if Will’s playing is actually filling the voids in the real music that nature plays. Between such lovely nocturnal noises are some very personal songs, the most being the first cue, “Bury your Burdens in the Ground,” which pays homage to those “creatures (demons) in the night” we all posses (admittedly or not). “Don’t Need It” could be the title song to this recording. It feels like an old soulful hymn, righteous but never self-righteous, with the hymn-like quality that’s a Whitmore trait—but don’t go thinking his work is ever preachy, dry, or dull! Will’s lyrics are both complex and concise, rarely repetitious. In the mode of great American storytellers like Guthrie and Leadbelly, Whitmore’s songs are never fluff or filler.

“Everything Gets Done” pulls us into Whitmore’s most sublime moment on this recording, almost stopping time in order to get our heads straight. “Get There From Here” is Will’s most empathetic piece. He looks through the eyes of an immigrant crossing the border looking for a grain of hope to send back home. The earnest pace and deep feeling continue with artistic consistency throughout Field Songs, which truly gets better with every listen.

It’s been a while since I’ve given any recording a mere mention of spirituality but it’s undeniable here. Whitmore clearly has his heart and mind on the pulse of America, and isn’t afraid to tout it.

Performing solo with banjo, guitar, and drum only helps solidify this man’s message and solidarity. Not afraid to tip the political boat, on all fronts, William Elliott Whitmore has become an integral piece of American folk-roots music, “deep-folk music.”

<- back to Features