8 tracks, 36 minutes. William Elliott Whitmore's debut album from 2003. Brought up on bluegrass and punk rock. One man, one voice, a 5-string banjo and a DIY ethic.
William Elliott Whitmore is a very unique soul. Hailing from a small town along the banks of the Mississippi River, Mr. Whitmore's experiences are steeped in the black Iowa dirt, the bracing punch of Kentucky whiskey, and the cold hard truths of life, love, and death. His songs are stripped bare of any pretense or protection, leaving the listener no choice but to face their own demons. Often referred to as the "Hillbilly Ray Charles," Mr. Whitmore builds his songs of redemption and his murder ballads with little more than his banjo, his harmonica, and his incredible voice. Each song on Hymns For The Hopeless represents an important piece of his life. Whitmore's primary influences are illuminating: The Louvin Brothers, Minor Threat, Ralph Stanley, Captain Beefheart.
Pulling a stool up to the microphone at a recent performance, Mr. Whitmore's presence completely silenced the audience. This would not be so memorable were it not for the fact that this was a dingy punk rock dive filled to the rafters with sweaty young no-goodniks waiting for the next bunch of screamers to plug in. Mr. Whitmore explains his outlook by saying that "each song is its own church and one cannot help but step inside and share a seat."
Hymns For The Hopeless is far from hopeless. Every song, despite its tragic narrative or painful conclusion, contains a grain of goodness. After facing their demons, the listener is then left newly inspired, freshly optimistic, and able to appreciate all that had been taken for granted.