Photo by Matt Lankes
Bonnie Whitmore, Somebody’s Darling
August 18, 2013
MOTR Pub, 1345 Main St, Cincinnati, OH
Free, 21+, 10 pm
Bonnie Whitmore‘s last album had a body count and a title, Embers to Ashes, that implied a fiery finality. There are broken bones and hard lessons learned on Whitmore’s new album, but its title – There I Go Again – suggests less ominous themes.
“I feel like I’ve grown up a lot,” she says. “I turned 30 this year, and I’ve been in the business 15 of those years. Songwriting as a profession is a humbling career choice. To write songs that are accessible and relatable as possible required a level of maturity and focus that I have strived to attain on this record. It’s a less self-indulgent record then Embers. Embers To Ashes was what I needed to get through that period of my life. There I Go Again is a celebration of success and failure. Plus, nobody wants to hear two breakup albums in a row.”
Fittingly, the music also reflects a radiant change of direction. The rootsiness of Embers isn’t absent, but the songs on There I Go Again are decidedly less country sounding. Keyboards are played up in places a steel guitar might have inhabited, the drums are more prominent, and Whitmore lets her big voice run through some big, inviting choruses.
“We knew what we had in these songs,” says Whitmore. “It’s not the same Americana sound that we had with Embers. This one is a lot more put together, and I think it comes across as more polished. It’s definitely a pop record, and everyone loves a good pop record.”
She cites Tom Petty’s ability to balance the earthiness of roots music with hooky pop parts as the model she aspired to on the album. “He makes these amazingly awesome pop songs, but is also able to keep them within the lines. You could hear how beautiful the melodies are beyond the grit of rock and roll,” she says. “I struggle with the question – ‘who inspired you?’ – but Petty’s music has, and always will inspire me.”
Whitmore also credits her parents, both the music they chose to play at home in Denton and on the radio, and also her father’s band, which featured Whitmore starting at age 8, as well as her sister Eleanor.
By 15, Whitmore was playing professional gigs outside the family band. She played and sang in Hayes Carll’s band for a while, and recently she spent quite a bit of time touring and recording with the Mastersons, the husband/wife band featuring sister Eleanor and Houston native and guitarist Chris Masterson.
They’re good family to have: Both of them play on Whitmore’s albums, which Masterson produced.
There have been tough gigs for Whitmore along the way. She went to Kickstarter to finance the new record. There she included a video with some footage from a particularly undesirable gig performing in a sports bar beneath the glow of a giant flat-screen TV.
“Those gigs can be hard to take,” she says. “You’re playing three hours to a group of people that do not seem to realize you’re there. It can be a humbling, disheartening experience.”
But her album title speaks to a commitment to her music. “It seemed like a pretty good title for a second album,” she says. “It provides a sense of diving into the deep and seeing if it floats. That’s what an artist has to do when releasing music now. Nobody is really doing it for the money, we’re doing this because we love it, and that’s the only reason to do it at all. There’s nothing else I’d rather do. Sometimes you have three people come out to a show sometimes you have 300. To me it’s simple. I play music because it’s what I do. Those who want to hear it are what makes it worth it.” – andrew dansby
8/13 – The Basement, Nashville, TN
8/14 – Downtown Tavern, Jackson, TN
8/16 – House Pub, St. Charles, IL
8/17 – Tonic Room, Chicago, IL (w/ Steve Leaf Trio)
8/18 – MOTR, Cincinnati, OH
8/19 – Purple Fiddle, Thomas, WV
8/22 – Rockshop, Brooklyn, NY (w/ Charlotte Cornfield)
8/23 – Norfolk Taphouse, Norfolk, VA
8/24 – Hampton Taphouse, Hampton, VA
8/25 – The Station at Southern Rail, Chapel Hill, NC
8/26 – Radio Room, Greenville, SC
8/27 – Preservation Pub, Knoxville, TN
8/28 – The Earl, Atlanta, GA (w/ Tedo Stone)
8/29 – Iron City, Birmingham, AL (w/ Delicate Cutters)
8/30 – Hey Joe’s, Cleveland, MS