Record Of The Week # 99

Bonnie Whitmore – Last Will & Testament

It stands to reason that if your last album was called F*** With Sad Girls you’ve got a point of view. Whitmore’s latest release tackles issues that have been on her mind such as suicide, rape culture and pulling together America in these times. She goes on to say “My goal for this record is to inspire people to have hard conversations”. Frankly, I don’t know a popular music record that’s ever changed much but I imagine that if you’re seeking some inspiration for a song then these profound issues are a place to start. Whitmore’s played bass and/or toured with some Americana luminaries such as James McMurtry, John Moreland, Hayes Carll and Sunny Sweeney yet her own music is nothing like theirs but more of a pop rock sound: it’s terrific.

“The Last Will & Testament” starts the album with a thumping electronica bass line and soon we’re deluged with strings and horns as her delightful mellifluous voice adds to the cavalry charge whilst Scott Davis’ electric guitar adds an edge. Some beginning. Whitmore’s written or co-written nine of the ten songs here. All are swamped in melody; the arrangements give an exceptional breadth of sound. It helps if your voice is such a captivating instrument that when you apply it to any tune it holds your attention. “Right/Wrong” attempts to offer a way forward on the conflict that leads to divides in society. If that sounds a bit too serious the song is pop and propelled by horns and spirited drums. Fine is a love song with the same pop sensibilities with a dance rhythm, and an absolute ear worm of a hook – “Would I rather be lonely and change my mind a thousand times? / If you could just hold me, maybe that’d be just fine”. 

After this levity we’re back to the dark and troubling “Ask For It” – “So go on and blame the victim! / Why should violence have consequence? / And each time you silence them /Recreates the same event”. The words are delivered over a driving rock beat with occasional frenzied guitars in the background. The profundity of the message contrasts memorably with the light tune emphasising how such violence may not always be taken seriously. “Love Worth Remembering” is a stand out with a 70s ‘blue eyed soul’ feel. This slowed funk ballad has a rumbling base line with short sharp hits of the snare as Whitmore croons sweetly over the top. A heartfelt message of comforting love – just magnificent.

This is such a crafted piece of work where interesting words have been bolted to memorable tunes. After that foundation is laid the work really started in the creation of  complex and sophisticated arrangements for their showcasing. A very impressive release.

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