I was parsing through my iTunes library when I came across the two albums that I have by William Elliot Whitmore[wiki]. When I did the public radio thing back in the states, he was a guest a few times on the show that we did at a local coffee house every Friday. Super nice, and one of those artists that were able to detract my attention from the levels on the mixer and completely pull me into his performance. Not too shabby for ten in the morning.
I thought I’d check him out on the web to see what he’s up to. He’s originally from southeast Iowa, so southeast that he grew up on the “penninsula” of the state, surrounded by the Mississippi and Des Moines River. These roots make their way into his music from time to time, but that’s not why I’m a fan of his music. Some people say Tom Waits or Johnny Cash when they talk about him, but I think that’s way off. He’s William Elliot Whitmore. Once you get to see him perform, you get it.
Whitmore is my age. When I shook his hand to introduce myself as his sound guy, I thought that his voice might still be suffering from just waking up not long ago. Deep, raspy, and almost struggling for air. That’s just how he talks. How or why, I’m not sure, but whiskey might have something to do with it.
I set up three mics for him. One for his vocals, another for his banjo or guitar, and a third for his foot. He stomps the floor as he plays, getting the stage to boom like a kick drum. Head tilted up and eyes closed, it was like magic. On his song “Cold and Dead”, he doesn’t play anything. It’s just him singing. It gets me when I’m listening to the recording, just like I did the day I saw him perform it.
Oh sure, you might think that it sounds lame. Guy from Iowa with a banjo on stage. Tell that to all the fans of the hardcore band, Ten Grand[wiki], that have become some of his biggest followers. Imagine going out to a show in some of the seediest clubs in Europe with the intention of seeing a band with loud guitar noise and screaming, only to see this guy come on stage as the opening act. It happened many times, and people loved him.