“Some good it bad, some got it worse. Some just can’t let go no matter how it hurts. But no one, no one can say, that we didn’t do it the hard way.” William Elliott Whitmore’s fifth release may be a “stark representation of rural life” (according to his own website), but these themes run through people’s lives everywhere. Yes, for the most part Field Songs focuses on life on the farm, but this evening time front porch mellow jam could take place just about anywhere, from a farm in the middle of the country to a stoop outside a row home in the city.
At a time when much of the country is under duress – lower incomes, lost jobs, unemployment benefits running out, lost homes, prices rising, etc. – William Elliott Whitmore’s Field Songs is a welcome bit of respite. He intended the eight songs here to play as one, as though you’re sitting on the front porch with him. It’s not hard to imagine, especially if you’ve experienced (lately, or ever) the hard times of the working class.
While Whitmore’s first few releases were gravelly, funeral dirges that heavily leaned on the blues, and his 2009 album Animals in the Dark took a political bent, Field Songs is as simple and straightforward as a folk album could ever be. Simple banjo and guitar with the slightest amount of percussion, a voice, and something to say is all Whitmore needs to give his audience goose bumps or tears. Opening track “Bury Your Burdens in the Ground” will certainly do the latter if you’ve been feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders lately.
On the title track, Whitmore quickly reminds us to “write this down and don’t forget, that the best of times haven’t happened yet”. The man who once sang predominantly about death and dying seems to have, shall we say, reached that point in healing himself where hope peeks through. While listening to “Everything Gets Gone”, you’ll realize this hope comes hand in hand with acceptance.
Field Songs, in its utter simplicity, is perhaps Whitmore’s finest effort to date. While William’s guitar and banjo chops are quite lovely, it’s his voice and the lyrics that make this album resonate so strongly. And that, naturally, cannot be described adequately with more words.