William Elliot Whitmore

“Accompanied by little more than a banjo”: William Elliott Whitmore’s Folk and Roots songs

He grew up on his family farm in Iowa, respecting the land on a philosophy of caring for crops, and to never take more than is needed and, ultimately, to try to leave things better than how they were found.  With that approach, William Elliott Whitmore is recording beautiful albums since 2003 in the Folk and Roots genre.  

Accompanied by little more than a banjo or acoustic guitar

So, hailing from the sparsely populated farmlands William Elliott Whitmore writes soulful Folk ballads often accompanied by little more than a banjo or acoustic guitar. This is best heard in songs like “Diggin’ My Grave” and “Civilizations” which is part of his latest album Radium Death from 2015.

Further, you’ll notices that he has vocally the ability to keep you interested in every word throughout a song. Also his vocal-tone really enjoyable. Whitmore reminds me of a milder version of Scott H. Biram and of the American recording of Johhny Cash,

Punk scene and DIY Ethic

Interesting is his interest in the punk scene that broke him into music in the first place, discovering bands like The Jesus Lizard, Bad Brains, Lungfish and Minutemen and learning to play his own brand of rural, roots music with that same DIY ethic. “Opening up for hardcore bands was the only way I could figure out to get into any kind of music scene,” he says. “There wasn’t really any coffeehouse folk scene where I was, so I kind of came in through the side door, playing my banjo, and it stuck out in people’s minds and I was able to make my way doing that.”

 

Latest Solo Album Radium Death

His latest album Radium Death came from his interest in the so-called ‘radium girls’ of the early 1900’s, he tells us in his biography: “these assembly lines of women painting watch dials with radium to make them glow in the dark,” he says, detailing how the workers would lick the tips of their paintbrushes to get them pointy while dipping them repeatedly into the chemical substance before it was known to be dangerous. “Slowly, they were getting sick, and eventually they filed a lawsuit and won some restitution when it became clear that it was the radium causing their health problems. So, in my mind ‘radium death’ came to represent something that you’re told is good for you—maybe by a higher power—but really is killing you. It represents those lies that are told, and how we can protect ourselves against them.”

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