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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