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William Elliott Whitmore, Lou Shields

  • High Noon Saloon 701 East Washington Avenue Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Iowa singer/guitarist/banjo player William Elliott Whitmore earned himself a rock-solid spot among modern-day folk artists with an trilogy of albums released in his late 20's—2003's Hymns For The Hopeless, 2005's Ashes To Dust, and 2006's Song Of The Blackbird. On those records, his voice sounded incredibly weathered, but still tender and expressive, and against stark instrumental backdrops it created a feeling of someone finding some powerful shred of hope and humanity amid desolation. His last few albums, including 2015's Radium Death, relish in opening things up a bit, with more generous arrangements, some group vocals, and a production touch that makes it all just a notch more accessible. The core of what made Whitmore special in the first place is still there on Radium Death, and at times laid bare on tracks like "Civilizations," whose blues-structured verses ("Don’t mind me I’m bleeding now/ Don’t mind me I’m just bleeding now/ A hand from above cut out my heart somehow/ Don’t mind me I’m just bleeding now") manage to come off as timeless and apocalyptic at once. —Scott Gordon