By Eryn Brothers, Staff Writer
Bonnie Whitmore (who recently came out as pan in these pages) has been stealthily making a name for herself. From the wilds of Austin, Texas to the lights of Music City, Whitmore has been steadily honing her chops; that hard work has paid off in spades with her new album, Last Will And Testament.
Last Will And Testament starts with a bang with its title track and then goes on to crackle, sizzle, simmer, and steam. The album is a solidly professional product in its polished packaging and delivery, but beyond the packaging, Whitmore is unafraid to unravel difficult narratives. Last Will And Testament rends itself open to discuss sexual assault, self harm, and suicide – without mincing words – even when the subject matter is taboo and jagged. There’s an air of Hole’s Celebrity Skin – a riot grrrl quality to this design – with the pivot point of anger versus sweetness that Whitmore tries to walk.
Much like many modern country albums these days, not ever song is really a country song. But the song “Fine,” co-written by Jamiee Harris, is that perfect blend of Petty-esque anthemic Americana rock. It’s sweet and heartwrenching in its narrative, powerful in its hooks. “I light up a match just to feel that spark / It’s a beautiful thing to watch it fall apart,” leads us into the catchy-as-hell chorus that sustains the heart of the song: to be so hurt by someone leaving that you are past vulnerability and can only utter every depressed person’s response when asked how they are: “I’ll be fine.”
“Time to Shoot,” is a creeper of a tune. Starting out smokey, with guitar effects reminiscent of Julee Cruise, its crescendo is made slightly chaotic with the fiddle really pushing against the melody. It’s a confusing, counterintuitive part of the song sonically. But in context, this musical choice makes sense; the song goads and challenges someone who is so intent on their convictions that they’re willing to take destruction into their own hands.
There’s a wide swath of human experience here. “Asked For It” speaks for itself, churning punk sensibilities and disdain for the expectations of freedom and being a woman. “None of My Business” serves a slice of old school with its R&B background singers. There’s a mildly starry eyed psychedelic note in the tastefully peppered electric guitar and other effects, even though the fulcrum of the song is how passive one feels while watching the world fall apart. Timely.
“Love Worth Remembering” is a darling waltz on this otherwise barbed album, a reminder that in the midst of all the thorny twists and turns that life brings, there’s always a tender place to land. “George’s Lullaby,” the last track, is a gentle, intimate song, paralleling the ferocity of the opening number. “Somewhere / And some-when / I’ll see you soon,” breathes Whitmore, finally blowing out the fires that she’s surrounded herself with for ten tracks.
Regardless of sticky subject matter or heartache, Last Will And Testament smacks of nothing left to lose. Writing out a will means that you’re not exactly ready to die, but you’ve accepted it. Bonnie Whitmore takes a little bit of a “Midnight Rider” (The Allman Brothers) approach to the whole story: she will go out with guns a-blazing, while honoring all the experiences – the good, the bad, the ugly – and leave town under the moon and the stars, expecting nothing but the fact that shit is going to go down some way or another.
Last Will and Testament is available now on all major services and on bonniewhitmore.com