Bonnie Whitmore

Image by Erin Brooke

Bonnie Whitmore is not new to the music business. For the last two decades, she’s played bass and sung with some of the biggest artists in the Americana genre: Hayes Carll, John Moreland, Eliza Gilkyson, 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.

Her 2016 release F*** With Sad Girls turned heads, but with Last Will and Testament, Whitmore has turned a corner in her own artistry that may just catapult her to the top of the Americana heap.

As someone who’s never shied away from the issues, she’s not afraid to be direct. Her record is full of topical songs, tackling suicide, rape culture, loss, and the great American divide. It’s not easy to talk about heavy subjects without weighing the music down, but Whitmore pulls it off without difficulty. It’s like she’s used to talking about serious matters in casual conversation — which she is.

“I’ve definitely been told to shut up and sing,” she says, referencing the phrase that became commonplace after it was directed at The Chicks. In such divided times, many artists have become hesitant to share their opinions for fear of being ostracized or losing fans. But Bonnie took “shut up and sing” literally. “I thought, fine, I’m just going to sing what I want to talk about.”

“My goal for this record is to inspire people to have hard conversations.”

Whitmore has spent the last few years polishing these songs 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, oh . . .”   He first asked her to open a tour for him a few years ago, after hearing her sing “F*** With Sad Girls” at the Continental Club Gallery. She’s a songwriter’s songwriter and musician’s musician.