There are many great things about living in Brixton and one of those is being just a stone throw from the Windmill where on Thursday evening William Elliott Whitmore took to the stage. A rare opportunity to see William play in such an intimate venue the gig sold out weeks in advance, however being both slim and very lucky I was allowed to squeeze in!
At the Windmill it's been a fine year for artists of the folk-punk/alt-country genre with Austin Lucas, Digger Barnes, Two Cow Garage, Crazy Arm, Frontier Ruckus and Franz Nicolay to name just a few who with tattooed arms and shots of whiskey have taken the stage in recent months.
Support on the evening came from London based, and Windmill regular JD Smith. I arrived a little too late to catch his set but based on previous times I've heard him play he's well worth checking out if you get the chance.
William's act is a minimalist one accompanied with just his banjo and kick-drum, and there was a sense the evening would be a long one as he invited folk to make room for others saying "there's plenty of room up here on the stage, just don't touch me or touch my shit!". And a long one it was, for the £10 entry you certainly got value for money with a set which topped the two hour mark.
With seven albums to his name there were plenty of songs to play and it seemed as though William would have been happy playing through all of them. Taking numerous requests from the audience William was willing to play whatever the eager and informed crowd wanted to hear, and the frequent stops between songs for banter, a steady flow of whiskey being passed forward from the back of the room and the lights down low it only added to the intimacy of the event.
Although a great banjoist it's William's voice that really sets him apart. His deep, throaty vocals are often described as 'the voice that Tom Waits has been after for years' and something of a mix between Solomon Burke and Captain Beefheart with plenty of whiskey and cigarette abuse thrown in for good measure. A blend of gospel, blues, folk and country it's a sound that wouldn't be out of place in the 1930s but fits equally well in 2011. And lyrics of solid Americana pedigree speaking of drinking, loving and losing, the devil and darkness, as well as reflections of life growing up on his grandparents farm in Keokuk, Iowa you were left entertained, informed and feeling as though as long as people kept making music like that then everything was going to be alright.