Upstream from all that

William Elliott Whitmore makes music from Mississippian moods

William Elliott Whitmore does not sing beautiful songs, at least not in a conventional sense.

Though Whitmore is younger than 30, his vocals have a deep rasp to them that sound more suitable for a 60-year-old chain-smoker. His gritty voice stands as the most-prominent element in his songs, usually only backed with a grimy guitar or banjo.

Yet, Whitmore’s songs are beautiful.

On the opening track, “Midnight,” off his third album, “Ashes to Dust,” Whitmore sings, “The blue bird can sing but the crow’s got the soul.” He might not have pretty vocals in the “American Idol” way, but unlike those people, Whitmore certainly has soul.

Whitmore was born on a small farm in Iowa on the banks of the Mississippi River, where he still lives today. His album, “Ashes to Dust,” follows the river’s musical history.

Whitmore’s loud and wavering vocals take root in Southern hymns, and his bluesy guitar pickings come right out of the delta.

Still, Whitmore’s music cannot be mistaken for Southern; he brings his own Northern mix. Whitmore’s most-obvious influences come from the country and blues artists of the South, but that has more to do with a similar rural background. “Ashes to Dust” leaves a lot of the twang present in traditionally Southern music and replaces it with industrial thumping stomps. The percussion often sounds like a hammer hitting a nail.

Other songs on the album – such as “Lift My Jug (Song for Hub Cale),” an ode to a homeless man Whitmore met as a child, and “Porchlight,” about a farmer’s last request – bring authenticity to Whitmore’s music.

Whitmore digs into the soul of the heartland, exposing its gritty beauty.