Album Review of Bonnie Whitmore: Last Will and Testament
Bonnie Whitmore is an accomplished vocalist, bassist, guitarist, and cellist from Austin, Texas. She has been a side woman to such notables as Eliza Gilkyson, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock, among others. She’s spent a number of years supporting other artists and has recorded some solo work in the past. But with Last Will and Testament, Whitmore is front and center with her strongest musical statement to date.
She’s got a full cadre of some of the Austin scene’s finest, including her sister Martha on backing vocals and sister Eleanor who plays violin and provided some of the string arrangements on two of the tracks. Beginning with the title track, there is a lush Phil Spector-like wall of sound that emanates from your speakers. It’s a gothic feel, with some ‘60s flourishes and an incredible sonic landscape.
“None of My Business” follows and is soulful and slow. There is a tender R&B nature to this wrapped up in Jeff Lynne-like production. Whitmore’s got a big voice and blends really well with her backup accompaniment. “Right/Wrong” asks the question “How will you be remembered?” Amid a smooth samba-like structure with a nice horn arrangement, she explores making the right choices and reminds that “words can get lost in the haze of what really matters.”
“Fine” features catchy hooks, a skilled use of dynamics and, perhaps, a Stevie Nicks influence in a country rocker about the cycles of a relationship.
Whitmore picks up the pace and infuses the song “Asked For It” with a punkish energy. Never afraid to speak her mind, the dynamic songstress tackles the subject of rape culture where in the bridge she sings “so go on and blame the victim, why should violence have consequence? And each time you silence them, recreates the same event.” It’s certainly material that makes one take pause and think.
“Time to Shoot” focuses on another aspect of human nature dealing with inner perception and knowing oneself. With an almost operatic feel Whitmore delivers the words “Time to shoot, take the shot, show the world what you’ve got. When it’s done, when you’re gone, were you right, were you wrong?” This dynamic artist always gets right to the heart of the matter.
“Love Worth Remembering” lightens the mood a bit, with some good bluesy old school rock. It addresses unconditional love that will stay the course. The sentiment is sweet and honest and, again, talks about things most folks can relate to. “Imaginary” tends to stray from the norm here, with a waltz-type rhythm and cadence. It’s a quirky fantasy-filled piece supported, in a large part, by Betty Soo’s accordion drone.
“Flashes and Cables” was written by backing vocalist Will Johnson and is the only song on the album not written by Whitmore. It features a dramatic chorus and an interesting mix of guitar dissonance, vivid storytelling, and well-measured dynamics.
“George’s Lullaby” wraps the album, with a dedication to Whitmore’s late bassist friend and mentor George Reiff. It is certainly a tearjerker, with its somber, jazzy baroque-type feel.
Bonnie Whitmore displays that she is totally adept at carrying a whole album herself, in addition to being a support and utility player. She has an interesting and diverse point of view and cuts right to the chase, with her perceptive songs and stories of the human condition.