Plumbiferous Media

Field Songs - William Elliott Whitmore

Jul 10th 2011
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Field Songs - William Elliott WhitmoreWilliam Elliott Whitmore
Field Songs
Score: 81

Blues and folk are not, per­haps, the most nov­el musi­cal com­bi­na­tion, but it’s cer­tain­ly one that’s time-test­ed - and one that William Elliott Whit­more throws every inch of his voice and his soul into. Whitmore’s newest work, Field Songs, blends his bluesy vocals with a mix of ban­jo and gui­tar, played in a way that brings both folk and coun­try sound to mind. Whit­more effort­less­ly lay­ers the two parts, singing over what he plays with the sort of ease that only comes with true invest­ment in one’s work.

And invest­ed Whit­more cer­tain­ly is - these aren’t the gener­ic tales found in the dregs of each of the gen­res he touch­es upon. Instead, Whit­more tells bit­ter but deeply hope­ful remem­brances of a sort of life that is sim­ply but incred­i­bly rich. As Whit­more sings of sit­ting “under­neath the black locust tree,” he con­structs a scene that is noth­ing less than idyl­lic, and one that cer­tain­ly can’t last - Whit­more sings of the “man­i­fest des­tiny of the fac­to­ry farms / When those cut­throats came and burned down the barn.”

But as much regret can be found in the words of Field Songs, there is infi­nite­ly more opti­mism. A sense of accom­plish­ment under­lies each word of Field Songs, accom­pa­nied by an inte­gral mes­sage of self-suf­fi­cien­cy - the lat­ter an indi­ca­tion of Whitmore’s view of the world, which, while vis­i­ble through­out the album, is nev­er so overt as to ren­der the album a lib­er­tar­i­an polemic. Instead, it comes off as an indis­pens­able part of the sto­ries Whit­more tells.

While Field Songs is, on the whole, quite an impres­sive album, it is, unfor­tu­nate­ly, not a per­fect one. Whit­more occa­sion­al­ly falls into traps such as rep­e­ti­tion or a slight lack of vari­ety between tracks - occa­sion­al­ly a bit tedious, but gen­er­al­ly not enough of a prob­lem to do seri­ous dam­age to the album.

Field Songs is, for its few flaws, a very well-con­struct­ed album, and quite pos­si­bly Whitmore’s best album. A com­bi­na­tion of Whitmore’s impres­sive vocals and a sol­id if unadorned instru­men­tal back­drop makes for a rich, inter­est­ing set of songs. Field Songs may not be per­fect, but it’s quite an effort, and one that thor­ough­ly demon­strates Whitmore’s skill and musi­cal ener­gy.

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