William Elliott Whitmore is a corn fed Iowa boy who must have swallowed gravel since childhood to achieve his wizened, guttural croak of a voice. In listening to Animals in the Dark, Whitmore’s latest album, you’d be hard pressed to guess that the voice belongs with a white man in the prime of his life, and that’s not all which sets Whitmore apart from the pack.
Animals in the Dark is essentially a roots album. It has a banjo, slide guitar, Whitmore’s voice, and a peck of attitude. The attitude transcends the genre on “Mutiny” specifically. It’s not a protest song so much as an angry open letter to the last presidential administration. When Whitmore sings, “Let the motherfucker burn,” he clearly means it. No euphemisms. No compromise. He calls it like he sees it. In fact, Whitmore probably has more in common with hardcore punk rock of the late 80s than current Americana music. The songwriting is no nonsense and no holds barred. As Whitmore says, “Look at the guys who are screwing us right now compared to the guys who were in power screwing people 2,000 years ago in ancient Europe.” To him, there’s little difference.
A clear line between Whitmore and other angry musicians is that Whitmore sings about politics without being political. He’s not interested in right or left, but right and wrong, love and death, cigarettes and beer. He says so on “Hell or High Water”. “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. Drink your glasses to the bottom.” He sings songs about carrying on and making the best of it. And carrying on is universal. Not many men make it through life without a bad year – or for that matter a bad decade. Sometimes you just need a song to get you through to tomorrow. It seems that Whitmore is most interested in creating such songs for such people.