Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
There's no telling the purity of someone by what they look like or what they write. And there's really no telling what that information would even look like. There's nothing that says that this would even be something that would be the same for every person systematically. Purity can be misfired or poorly read. It can probably feel disturbing and almost like something ghastly, if it's radiating off of the wrong person. It can be manipulated and clipped out of a book like a coupon, to be used whenever it's deemed fitting, whenever the rewards would be finest.
Who would even want to be alit with purity as this could only mean no alcoholic benders, no random sowing of the wild oats during those college years, no active imagination and principally, no fun whatsoever. But this word and concept are only a problem when they're being judged against the standard idea of spiritual purity as it relates to religion and morality. An associated press news story yesterday about a new advertising campaign that Burger King unveiled where they went on a search for Whopper Virgins in the Arctic regions of Greenland and in remote areas of Russia, at the cost of millions of dollars to do a blind taste test of their famous burger against McDonald's Big Mac (but who gets those anymore anyway?). Spoiler alert, the Inuit people of Greenland went for the Whoppers, but the best part of the article was the kicker in the last paragraph, where the author wondered what the heavily processed, hormone-enhanced Western food was doing to those pristine digestive systems. Those poor Inuit people were sufficiently tainted forever, thanks be to the marketing machine and some flame-broiled meats and buns. The prevalent and availing ways in which we're liable to be tainted continue to grow. The pure of heart are becoming fewer and further between.
Lawrence Greenwood, the person behind Whitley, a one-man musical showcase of calm-watered ballads about growing up and through the hassles. He's got a gripping ability to make everything he sings about feel cozy and authentic, as if this wasn't just fantastic material for a song. He's not gathering these sentimental images to slide them into his lyrical quotients. He's gathering them for his own personal use and they just so happen to work themselves into the crooks and the crevices where he puts the sentimental droplets. Greenwood, who was here in our Rock Island studio with buddy Ben Kweller accompanying him on the six-string, is living his young life as a drifter at this point, taking off into whichever direction the crow flies (though perhaps there aren't many of those in his homeland of Austrailia - crows, not directions) and getting gladly ensnared in a tragic, though willing conundrum of needing or longing for emotional and physical stability - a roof that can be called a home, and a girl that can be called the same.
It's almost as if he's had a homing device packed into his heaving heart and it's always beeping him back to those familiar people and those familiar comforts, only the beeps are always far apart. It's a pure tug in the direction of having something to be anchored to, having a slab of sidewalk with your initials carved into it, having history and a bed that knows and corresponds with the shape of your body. He sings a line like, "Be my wings until I die," and that's not a toss-off sort of gooey-eyed, making-a-girl-weepy-weak phrase, but one that he puts stock into. It's a pure expression that is Greenwood at his core - a young man who knows that that life bends, we bend, but there's a conservation of the real insides of both that can always be there to enjoy or return to.
Whitley Official Site