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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review of Field Songs. The new William Elliott Whitmore LP

Before I begin this blog post on the new William Elliott Whitmore album “Field Songs”, I feel that I need to put forth a disclaimer. I am a huge William Elliott Whitmore fan, and have been for the past five years. I may have a slightly bias opinion towards him, but you need to trust me on this, the new album is outstanding. You owe it to yourself to listen to it. And now onto our featured blog.

On July 12th, Anti-Records artist and folk rock hero William Elliott Whitmore will release his fifth studio album “Field Songs”. One of the great perks working at a radio station is that I got to hear the album early. This album is a return to his earlier musical styles of bear bones; rough recordings that were featured on his three Southern Records albums, and less like his 2008 debut album with Anti-Records “Animals in the Dark”.

Though the album is relatively short in length, only eight tracks, it is rich in themes and imaging. The album discusses the joys of simple living, country life, tough economic times, and finally taking the world and adversity head on.

The imaging of this album is best exemplified by its opening track “Bury your Burden in the Ground”. This song is a true masterpiece and should be featured heavily at Whitmore concerts from now on. With lyrics of: “Bury your burdens, don’t carry them, just bury them in the ground. If your hurting, don’t worry I’ll try to be around”, Whitmore is encouraging his listener not to run away from their problems, but face them head on. No matter how difficult it may be, because only by confronting them can you find inner peace.

Whitmore continues this introspective theme with the albums first released single “Everything Gets Gone”. What has been a common theme for Whitmore throughout his career is struggling with mortality. Here Whitmore focuses on the fact that even though we humans are here for a short time, the land changes very little. This may be one of his strongest songs on the subject matter.

However the entire album is not introspective like Bury Your Burden or Everything Gets Gone. Field Songs is a heavily paced acoustic guitar love song about the land, farming, and those who first tamed the wild soil. “Let’s do Something Impossible” is probably the weakest song on the album, with kind of a cheesy theme of you can do anything. Never the less it is still a solid song.

As has been stated in his promotional video for the album, Field Songs truly is a love letter to country life, simple living, and blue-collar values. I do not know a better way of summarizing it, other than that. His fans see Whitmore as a voice for those who cannot speak, a modern day storyteller in the vain of Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie, or Tom Waits, and he lives up to that reputation on this album.

If you have never listened to William Elliott Whitmore, this is a great introduction to him. For long time fans, it is a return to form. In a year of major releases from Radiohead to Lady Gaga to the Foo Fighters, a folk singer from Lee County, Iowa has crafted one of the best albums of 2011.

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