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Song of the Blackbird

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Album Review

William Elliott Whitmore hasn't changed one iota for Song of the Blackbird, the third in a stylistic trilogy that began with 2003's Hymns for the Hopeless and continued in 2005 with Ashes to Dust. He's still fascinated by death and the re-examination of a life lived that death forces into play, and he still approaches his songs on a sparse, rustic level, sounding very much like an old Appalachian banjo player who's been reading Nietzsche while throwing down shots of bootleg moonshine. Whitmore's remarkable croak of a voice makes all of this work, and if that voice and the general dour, slow-paced feel of his songs makes him seem like a one-trick pony, well, that pony knows one hell of a trick. Song of the Blackbird doesn't set any new dishes out on the table, consisting of Whitmore singing over his own banjo or acoustic guitar accompaniment, for the most part (some moody drums and organ creep into a couple of the songs), and life doesn't seem to have been any easier on this latest bunch of Whitmore's hardscrabble characters, but while it's easy to view him as a scribe of the dire and the dying, there's a stubborn kind of faith at the root of his songs, a sort of unsaid hope in redemption and renewal that puts tremendous faith in the rhythm of the soil. Things are born, they live, they die, and the whole cycle renews. In the final song here, "Everyday," the sun comes up over the field to the east and then a verse or two later it sets over the field to the west. That's something, Whitmore is saying, that you can count on everyday. For all of their dark and desperate fears, the characters in these songs all cling to that notion of renewal, and Song of the Blackbird, although it moves track to track like a dirge stuck in a single key, is full of the hope for redemption, and there is a fervent and stubborn joy here, buried in the darkness.

Customer Reviews

Don't let the description fool you

If you listen to whitmore a lot you will realize that song of the blackbird is completely different from ashes to dust, or hymns for the hopless. I strongly urge you to buy every album from Whitmore, it's the greatest solo artist music I know of. If you ever have a chance to watch Whitmore play take the chance, he's a great performer and a fine gentlemen. Listen to William Elliott Whitmore.


This is the only CD I have listened to of WIlliam Elliott Whitmore, but it is truely amazing. I can't begin to describe the feeling I get when I listen to this CD but it is so wonderfull. I normally don't even listen to this type of music, but I fell in love with it! Its a great CD!


I have seen William open up for The Pogues a few times. His southern voice makes Shane sound like Pavorotti. But it is beautiful. I hate how this is classified as country music here, because it is music that is so natural and inate... you know the next lyric even though you have never heard the song. It is soul music over a 4/4 beat by a one man band. Go see him open up at Roseland for St. Pattys day. You will be amazed.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

With a voice that sounds like the reincarnation of an old gospel preacher from the 1920s and a fascination with sin, death, and redemption to match, William Elliott Whitmore is one of the most unique artists to emerge on the Americana scene in years. The son of a farmer, Whitmore was raised on a horse farm on the banks of the Mississippi River outside of Keokuk, Iowa. His songs have a stark universality that is sketched out with minimal instrumentation, usually just a banjo or guitar and a smattering...
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