William Elliott Whitmore | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

William Elliott Whitmore 

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"The river is on its hands and knees" is the sort of devastatingly effective image 28-year-old William Elliott Whitmore can growl out of his ancient-sounding throat as routinely as he breathes. Acoustic blues and mountain ballads are his building blocks, and from those common raw materials he constructs keening memorials and bleak epiphanies. His forthcoming third full-length, Song of the Blackbird (Southern), sounds completely of a piece with its predecessors: earthy, rich, and unblinkingly committed to staring into the abyss. On songs like "The Chariot" he turns the piety and salvation of gospel standards in on themselves, channeling the energy of sacred music to flatly proclaim himself damned: "One man's glory / Is another man's shame / I ain't bound for glory / I'm bound for flame." Whitmore has said that with this album he's moving on from the unrelenting sorrow of his previous releases; never mind that the most cheerful song here is about a devastating flood. Ghost Buffalo and FT (the Shadow Government) open. Wed 8/30, 10 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $8 in advance, $10 at the door, 18+.

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