The accomplished Austin, Texas, side woman takes center stage with a new album, and we’ve got the first listen to the rocking title track.
When Austin-American Statesman music critic Peter Blackstock got an advance copy of Last Will and Testament he named Bonnie Whitmore Austin360’s June Artist of the Month. “Whitmore still enjoys the supporting role,” he noted, “but these days, she has too much to say to stay in the shadows.”
You can find out just how much Whitmore has to say on October 2 with her coming-out-of-the-shadows release of Last Will and Testament on her own Aviatrix Records.
But till then, we’ve got the exclusive premiere of the rocking noir-ish title track right here (available on Spotify August 21).
For the last two decades, Whitmore has played bass and sung with some of the biggest artists in the Americana genre: Hayes Carll, John Moreland, Eliza Gilkyson, Sunny Sweeney, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock, to name a few. She’s also maintained a weekly residency at the legendary Continental Club Gallery in Austin, where she lives.
Whitmore has spent the last few years polishing the songs on Last Will and Testament on the road opening for James McMurtry. “Bonnie’s been first call support on my tours for a while now, because she kicks ass consistently,” says McMurtry, “Sometimes I forget who’s opening and wander back into the venue after I eat, thinking, “Damn, chick can sing, opening band sounds like money. … ”
Whitmore co-produced the record with Scott Davis, who also co-wrote one of the album’s standout tracks, “Right/Wrong.” They recorded at Ramble Creek Studio in Austin with engineer Britton Biesenherz, Craig Bagby (drums), Trevor Nealon (keys), and BettySoo (backing vocals, accordion). Members of Whitmore’s band, the Sad Girls, are fixtures throughout the record.
From an early age Whitmore was immersed in music. She toured in a band with her parents, Alex and Marti, and older sister Eleanor (now one-half of alt-country outfit the Mastersons with husband Chris Masterson). Her father was a professional pilot and would fly the family to gigs at remote Texas bars and crowded music festivals.
From her father, Whitmore, a licensed pilot herself, seems to have gotten a fearless, high-flying approach to creating music that manages to be gritty and grounded even as it soars. Her strong mother, a classically trained opera singer — “an actual diva” who could “overpower a whole choir” — seems to have given her the gift of serious pipes and unapologetic outspokenness.
Whitmore is nothing if not direct. Her record is full of topical songs, tackling suicide, rape, loss, and the great American divide. “I’ve definitely been told to shut up and sing,” she says. “I thought, Fine, I’m just going to sing what I want to talk about.”
She doesn’t pull any punches on Last Will and Testament. Her goal for the new record, she says, is to write catchy pop music that nonetheless inspires people to have hard conversations.
The title track will have you singing along but also thinking.
“’Last Will and Testament’ may sound ominous to some, but for me it feels more like a reflection of one’s self-worth,” Whitmore says. “I have been dealt a lot of loss within the last few years and that was the inspiration behind this song. It was written after hearing the news that another musician had succumbed to suicide, and was solidified after another tragedy that arose from living our lives on the road via touring as musicians.
“’Last Will and Testament’ has been a catalyst for me to open up the dialogue — that fear is no longer a good enough reason to keep us stoic with life’s challenges. Death will come for all of us regardless of our choices and it's what we do with the time we have here that matters most.”