Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
When William Elliott Whitmore asks for a shot of whiskey while in mid-set, he gets a full bottle, sometimes two bottles from the locals, many of whom consider him the down river fishing buddy that they'd overwhelmingly choose to drink to the point of oblivion with, even with their best friend since grade school standing right there with them. He is a man who is somehow the antithesis of a buddy - a charming, always lending you a smoke, always topping you off with whatever's left in the pitcher, always buying the next round, always looking you in the eye with the glint of someone who authentically gives a damn about everyone. It's impossible not to like the Iowa boy, the tattooed and charred through man from Lee County who dips into the flames of hell to pull out songs that are lyrically stained with chest-busting worries about damnation and the painful and confusing throes that a man goes through just in trying to live the kind of life that would make their grandfathers proud. It's without any sort of stretch to say that Whitmore is a good old boy, who is loyal to family and to the friends that he's kept the longest, but he's also quickly affectionate to those passerby just coming down the path, inviting them into his cabin for a glass of cool refreshment, a homemade meal of venison and potatoes and cobbler and then provides you with a comfortable place to lie your head for the night. He's as righteous and caring of a person as you'll ever find, concerning himself with staying true to the soil and to the virtues that were stuffed into him by his late parents and his extended family members. These are the people that he's found that he can stick by and they're the people who stick by him when the hard times start to beat down the doors and shake the hangings from the walls, the plates in the cupboards. His bogeymen are the lawmen, the bill collectors, the tax men and anyone wearing a suit and tie in the middle of the country fields where he's long found all of the elixir and vigor that he needs to keep running, to keep upright and productive. He's almost an advocate for a live and let live policy, reporting only to whomever he lets occupy his soul and heart and maybe some version of a big man or whatever up above, though it's likely an agnostic sort of appreciation for the spirit, for whatever calls the shots, as some people see it. There's a deep-seeded abhorrence of those fussy people with titles and badges who interfere with the god-given right of that pursuit of happiness in Whitmore's music - more so in his latest effort, "Animals In The Dark." He condemns the Johnny Laws who throw the man distilling moonshine in his shed in prison for five-to-ten. They're the nitpickers we don't need around these parts - all of which sound to be circa the early 1900s, where stagecoaches were new wave and ice cubes were a luxurious turn of events that changed everything. These songs are pre-lung cancer, pre-technology and post-drinking spree, the revelations that arise just before a rotten morning sun pokes into the bedroom hours before it should or conversely, when a man was early to bed and early to rise and the mind is as crystal clear as pond in the shade and the air's still packing last night's wood smoke. On mornings like this, one can imagine Whitmore putting the undershirt on that he's worn the previous five days (which he'd sluggishly draped over the headboard the night before, snap his suspenders over his shoulder blades, wiggle his feet into his boots and head outside to inhale everything from the freshness of the air, to the bird calls that pierce through the leaves and timber, to his own obsession with finding some kind of hope amongst the devils, amongst the adversities. It's what he always does. Sometimes it works and sometimes it burns. Sometimes the devils swoop in for their cut.
William Elliott Whitmore Official Site