William Elliott Whitmore
Given that William Elliott Whitmore has toured with the likes of Clutch, uninitiated concertgoers who spot his name on a bill often expect a hardcore band whose moniker honors, say, its gym teacher. Whitmore springs his first surprise when he strides onstage alone, holding a banjo. The astonishment increases when he unleashes a whiskey-coarsened cry that suggests an ancient bluesman commandeered his vocal cords. Whitmore developed that delivery in Iowa, where he still lives on his family’s land. His father played the guitar, and his grandfather picked the banjo. They passed down their instruments to him when he was 14. A couple of years later, only young William remained. Whitmore’s latest album, Song of the Blackbird, the last entry in a trilogy about those formative years, addresses death, farm life and family with warmth and wry humor (When life throws a punch, son, you’ve got to take it on the chin).