William Elliott Whitmore’s eighth long-player, I’m With You, is his first album of original material since 2015’s Radium Death. For fans hungry for more of the songsmith’s sparse acoustic fare, I’m With You is a welcome offering of rootsy and rooted songs that celebrate and contemplate the personal, present moment.
The compositions on I’m With You are minimal yet muscular, easily played but not easily ignored — uneasy listening, if you will. The marriage of Whitmore’s signature honesty and his wonderfully weathered voice has been a faithful companion for his listeners for nearly two decades, and they labor together beautifully once again on this personal set of nine new songs.
On “History,” a straightforward strummer, Whitmore states a personal commitment to learning from mistakes, individual and societal, so he “won’t repeat our tragic history.” “Solar Flare” measures the effectiveness of Whitmore’s aims for substantive living as he sings, “Every second that goes by / I sit and wonder why / I’m not living every day like it’s my last.” By the end, he realizes, “I’m satisfied with the life I’ve lived.”
That level of introspection comes with a shadow side, and Whitmore’s not opposed to exposing that as well. “My Mind Can Be Cruel to Me,” which takes a page from Buck Owens’ songbook, finds the crooner realizing the “very thin line” between a healthy mindset and one suddenly plagued by ghosts of past mistakes and poor choices.
Other highlights on I’m With You are found in the darker guitar flourishes on “Save Ourselves,” the porch-sittin’ stomp-along “Black Iowa Dirt,” and the banjo work of “Everything We Need.” Like Whitmore’s previous releases, I’m With You is earnest and forthright, realistic yet hopeful, all with a respectful hat tip and glass raised toward country’s storied past.