Bonnie Whitmore earned her stripes as a bassist for a number of acclaimed Americana artists including Hayes Carll and Eliza Gilkyson. But if you know me and my writing to any degree, you’ll know that in itself doesn’t pique my interest to any significant degree.
What does, however, is Last Will & Testament, Whitmore’s fourth album. Though it’s nominally in the Americana genre, I detect a much more expansive vision. The stomping beat and sweeping orchestration on the title track displays skill in songwriting, performance and arrangement. The strings are reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” (of all things), and the sonorous twang of the lead guitar combines with the other sonic elements to create a thing of beauty and power.
That opening track doesn’t really signal what’s to come, however. Last Will & Testament has dreamy, late-night weepers like “None of My Business,” shimmering Bacharach-flavored singer-songwriter pop like “Right/Wrong” and the twangy classic country strains of “Fine.” And Whitmore rocks out hard on the smoky, sinister “Asked for It.” Elsewhere, “Time to Shoot” is an expressive, yearning tune with keening fiddle worked into the mix.
The wonderfully understated and subtle “Love Worth Remembering” has a laid-back Southern blues-rock ballad feel. “Imaginary” is an off-kilter number that’s a kind of Americana corollary to Suzanne Vega’s intriguingly experimental 99.9F°. “Flashes & Cables” is a contemplative number that unfolds halfway through to become something far more interesting and soul-stirring. And Whitmore throws listeners a curve ball with the album’s closer, an old school vocal jazz-meets-country number called “George’s Lullaby.”
An exercise in eclecticism that nonetheless works well as a listening experience, Last Will & Testament is recommended.