The art of singing your fucking guts out is almost a lost one -- not that you'd know by listening to William Elliott Whitmore. Lunging between a croon and a croak, his voice sounds too big for one body, a ragged, elemental howl that carries all the grit and erosion of generations. Raised on the Iowa farm he still calls home, the 27-year-old songwriter grew up on equal parts classic country records and hard-core punk. His 2003 debut, Hymns for the Hopeless, was a stinging sermon on death and despair, backed up by slide guitar, banjo and sometimes just the stomp of feet. Last February saw the release of Ashes to Dust, an even starker disc that's as grim and whittled down as his unaccompanied live shows. On the road with Clutch for the second time this year, Whitmore has a gospel-level intensity that's been known to steal the stage from his amped-up tourmates. "When you're up to your neck in shit," he writes, quoting Samuel Beckett on the liner notes of Ashes, "the only thing left to do is sing." And boy, does he.
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