William Elliott Whitmore
has toured with Clutch and Converge, so uninitiated concertgoers who spot his name on a bill often expect a hardcore band whose moniker honors, say, a gym teacher. But jaws drop when Whitmore strides onstage alone, holding a banjo, and unleashes a whiskey-coarsened cry that suggests an ancient bluesman commandeered his vocal cords. Whitmore developed that delivery in Iowa, where he still lives (and makes his own moonshine) on his family's land. His father played the guitar, and his grandfather picked the banjo. They passed down their instruments to him when he was fourteen. A couple years later, only William remained. Whitmore's latest album, Song of the Blackbird
, is the last entry in a trilogy about those formative years, and addresses death, farm life and family with warmth and wry humor.