Live: William Elliott Whitmore/Tim Barry/Josh Small
William Elliott Whitmore. Photo by Curtis Lehmkuhl.
WALTER'S ON WASHINGTON -- 9/26/2007: Another sultry, wet Houston Wednesday, this time in the newly smoke-free Walter's on Washington, where I was pleasantly discombobulated by the clear view of the newly expanded stage. While I have always loved Walter's odd scene, touchy relationship with the locals (on any evening the cops could storm the place), and the strong pours, it needed a space for five to play without the threat of poking out eyes with pointy metal guitars and a Boeing 757 jet engine fan set in the wall above the drummer to clear the nicotine haze. Consistent with my "Chosen One" status and the work of the Houston City Council, both of my wishes came true.
Unfortunately, I didn't get there in time to catch Josh Small's set, but he was onstage with Tim Barry playing sick slide guitar on a well-worn Tele. Barry is a renaissance redneck, insightful in his between-song banter, plaintive if rough-voiced, telling tales of jumping trains, coarse women, and the plight of those too poor to keep their urban homes in the face of gentrification. Integral to the sound was Barry's sister, playing soulful violin like you might hear from Whiskeytown. Never without a smile and fueled by Lone Star, Barry shared his music easily with the surprising number in the crowd who sang along.
William Elliott Whitmore is slightly built, somewhat lanky, and seemed almost apologetic in his being here: he thanked the crowd profusely with genuine self-effacement, huddled on the stool in the middle of the stage with Barry's beat-up acoustic on one side and a thrashed four-string banjo on the other. Whitmore played mostly the banjo, complementing his awesome, brutal voice. S omewhere between Ray Charles and Joe Cocker in thickness and emotion, Whitmore's voice got better as the evening progressed, becoming more revealing and fragile. If watching Barry is all energy and raucous fun, listening to Whitmore silences the world around you, focusing your attention on only that voice and the simple tales of gravel roads and tilled earth. END