9 tracks, 31 minutes. Third album from in William's triology for Southern - showcasing his lyrical skill, unique voice & new filled-out band sound.
Music has healing power. There is so much resonance in this statement for William Elliott Whitmore and you can hear it in every banjo pluck, acoustic guitar strum and piano note on Song Of The Blackbird. William explains, "I have been building a cabin all summer and my room is next to a Sycamore tree, where a bunch of blackbirds live. Every morning I wake up to the song, and it's not a pretty song, but it's the song of this record." This is his third album in a trilogy series released on Southern Records.
There is a continuing story that threads through each of his albums. William dealt with the death of his parents as a late teen. To cope with the hurt, he channeled his emotion into the creation of his first Southern release, Hymns For The Hopeless. These harrowing tales of loss and wounds continued on through Ashes To Dust, his second album. "To me, Ashes To Dust is like burning a pasture in order for new grass to grow," William reflects. Powerful forces in nature have been revisited in each album's theme; "Hymns is about earth, Ashes is about fire, and Blackbird is about air and water."
Drawing inspiration from the unlikeliest of places, William's life has been spent on a farm in Iowa, footsteps away from the Mississippi River. He expresses himself with a sound akin to such lore legends as Ralph Stanley and Johnny Cash. Referencing records his dad had lying around, he learned to start picking on the banjo. Ever since, he has stayed true to his roots as he considers himself a 'son of the soil.' In "One Man's Shame", William feels his spiritual connection to nature. My church is the water/ my home is underneath the shady pines. "Someone else may disregard nature, but it is sacred to me," he says.
Song Of The Blackbird was recorded at Phantom Manor by Mike Lust (Tight Phantomz, Lustre King). William enlisted his help for the third time along with a cast of other recurring characters, including John 'Crawdaddy' Crawford on drums and Dave Zollo on piano and Hammond organ. The piano is a fresh addition, warming up songs 'The Chariot' and 'Red Buds.' William revisits his own experience with organized religion in 'The Chariot.' It plays on that old saying 'Swing low sweet chariot,' with a different outcome William says, 'When it swung low, it just didn't bring me home.'
As the tale continues, William has chosen sculptures made by his cousin Luke Tweedy, for cover art to reflect the each album's theme. The first and second albums, which speak of death, both featured skulls with dried roses. The artwork for Song Of The Blackbird features the skeleton of a bird with wings spread, meant to represent it taking off. "This album is how we move on, how we ascend in our lives to look forward," according to William.
More specifically, the album is a cycle. From the opening bars in "Dry" to "And Then The Rains Came", the story starts in the middle of a drought. Then a storm comes and floods the land halfway through the album. William got the idea for this story line from the Lee County flood of 1993 and a summer-long drought that plagued the Midwest that year. After being deluged with the rain for which they had been hoping, the farmers find themselves right back where they started as the record closes. William adds, 'A farmer's year is a cycle of growth and harvest. The crops and the ground must heal after the harsh rain.'
2 The Chariot
3 One Man's Shame
4 Rest His Soul
5 And Then The Rains Came
6 Lee County Flood
7 Take It On The Chin
8 Red Buds
Total Running Time: 31 mins
- File Under: Bluegrass, Blues
- For Fans Of: Leadbelly, Tom Waits, Charley Patton, Michah P. Hanson, Howlin' Wolf, PW Long, Dock Boggs
- Original release: July 2006