• The Iowa native makes bluegrass that works in a similar fashion to Bruce Springsteen’s world-weary Americana

    — AV Club

William Elliott Whitmore is a singer-songwriter/banjoist/guitarist/drum-stompin’ solo act from Lee County, Iowa. He has released six full-length albums that seamlessly meld country, blues, folk, and punk styles - spanning from 2003’s Hymns for the Hopeless (Southern Records) to 2015’s Radium Death (ANTI-). His songs are haunting, rustic, powerful, and real – byproducts of living his entire life on the family farm, being involved in the hardcore-punk scene in the local community, and touring hard across the country. His seventh album Kilonova (2018) is different from everything else in his catalog.

Whitmore’s first long-form release on Bloodshot Records is a collection of 10 cover songs from artists who have influenced his 15-plus-year career. Each of the tunes offers a glimpse into how his attitude and aesthetic were formed, like a series of tattoos, scars, or other time-accumulated personal markings.

Kilonova takes on a variety of musical heroes, both obvious and not, both well known and not, in a range of sonic forms. In the stark a capella take on Dock Boggs’ 1920s old-timey hit “Country Blues,” you can hear WEW at the pulpit, evangelizing the truth to his believers. The classic Harlan Howard country number “Busted” is updated with a swampy, bluesy version revealing a modern despair and necessary perseverance. For those who find a similarity between Whitmore’s voice to that of Captain Beefheart or Tom Waits, his equally erratic, demented and raspy-baritoned cover of the former’s “Bat Chain Puller” is the perfect medicine.

But there are some surprises as well. While celebrated amongst a punk and indie rock audience as much as he is by country-folk heads, when WEW puts his unique spins on Magnetic Fields’ “Fear of Trains” and “Don’t Pray on Me” by Bad Religion he makes the songs his own, bending their original style into the nebulous artistic nature he has created. It’s punk rock without the breakneck tempos; it’s rock-and-roll without turning it up to 11, and on the Bill Withers 1971 original “Ain’t No Sunshine," Whitmore is every bit as soulful and poignant without having Booker T and Donald “Duck” Dunn as his backing band.

William Elliott Whitmore is a sum of this album’s parts, and it is clear that Kilonova comes as close to an original as a cover album can. 

He says of the album:

In the journey of going from being a lover and fan of music, into being a creator of music, I've never lost the feeling of wonderment in hearing a great song. Like most people, I enjoy lots of different kinds. From the country music I grew up on thanks to my parents, to the punk rock and avant-garde bands I would discover later, it just always makes me feel good to hear a great song.

This collection is something I've been wanting to put forth for a long time. A handful of these tunes I've been doing in my live sets for years, and it just felt right to give them a little home. A place where my interpretations can live and hopefully be enjoyed. I remember as a kid hearing Johnny Cash cover Harlan Howard's "Busted" on Live at Folsom Prison. Soon after that I became familiar with Ray Charles' version, and it was a revelation that a great song can be played in many different ways. Seems obvious now, but as a ten year old it was helping to shape my way of thinking of music. As a thing to be passed around and shared. I used to love when I'd hear Willie Nelson play "Georgia on my Mind" by Ray Charles.

These were the greats, swapping tunes and swirling the waters. It helped me discover new artists too, thinking for instance, "Waylon's playing a song written by a guy named Billie Joe Shaver. What's he all about?" It was leading me down a path that I'm still on to this day.

Some of these were written just a few years ago, and some were written in the 1930s. Some deal with themes that I think are important, and some are just fun songs to play.

I am concerned with the state of things, as I'm sure people have been since the beginning of human consciousness. My way of carrying on and moving forward is through the sharing of art and music. I want to share these songs with people, simple as that.

Full Bio

Official Website: William Elliott Whitmore Online

Contacts

Press
Company: 
Bloodshot Records
Contact Name: 
Josh Zanger
josh@bloodshotrecords.com
New Media/Video
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Bloodshot Records
Contact Name: 
Mike Smith
mike@bloodshotrecords.com
Management
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Strong Management
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Booking
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AGI
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Nick Storch
nick.storch@artistgrp.com