When William Elliott Whitmore sings, "It was the year of aught-one/And our life had begun/No perils could make us this strong," it's a toss-up as to what century he's referring to. His Hymns for the Hopeless swims in time-warped currents of naked Mississippi blues, junkyard percussion, gospel harmony, and ragged banjo. With a voice at times crisp and raw like a chilling river breeze or deep, husky, and profound like an impassioned minister, Whitmore sings heart-wrenching songs of love, death, redemption, and beautiful tragedies taken from his own world-weary life. True, he treads the same ground as countless broken blues musicians before him, but the essence of the music provides bottomless inspiration, and Whitmore -- who comes from punk-rock roots -- feels it deep in his bones. Pay serious attention tonight and the tear in your beer may be your own.
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William Elliott Whitmore plays with Against Me and the Exit at 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 6, at Respectable Street, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. The show is all ages; tickets cost $10. Call 561-832-9999.