Scene&Heard: Scott Whiddon

 On July 22nd at The Green Lantern, Lexington will be treated to a unique show of some of the city’s best and diverse talent.  The occasion is the official release of Scott Whiddon’s first solo CD project, In Close Quarters with the Enemy.

Scott is among the many who have come to proudly call Lexington home.  A professor at Transylvania in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication program, Scott has been an active part in the local music since he moved here in the mid-2000’s. A member of Palisades, along with Neil Bell and Mark Richardson, Scott has also been in The Wags, and has performed with other locals at several fundraising shows around town over the last few years.

The new album of originals is a “batch of songs that kind of didn’t fit” with any of the other projects.  So, he decided he needed a solo record. “I’ve always been a band guy…but I’ve always been a band guy in someone else’s band.”

Produced and recorded with J. Tom Hnatow, along with Robby Cosenza and Cecilia Wright, In Close Quarters with the Enemy showcases Whiddon’s strong literary and composition background. The title quotes the Walt Whitman poem, Democratic Vistas. His voice is low-key, a much softer timbre than is found in the music he plays with Palisades.  He tells the listener a story, carrying through vivid images and visceral sensory descriptions that one can almost feel, touch, and taste.

Listen: Faster Than We Hoped

Scott is a storyteller, and his songs are stories that invite the listener along with an easy approach.  His soft steady voice creates a picture, like the Catskill mountains in “Holidays.”  The light guitar creates a pace for walking along with him as he describes the setting, the “empty pools and rusted carousels.” The listener can feel what the characters feel. His guitar is joined comfortably with the music of Hnatow, Cosenza and Wright, creating a setting and mood for each song.

Whiddon speaks reverentially of Hnatow and Cosenza and Wright, as a brain trust of talent that provided a foundation for his songs, which is fitting, as Whiddon speaks often in carpentry metaphors.  In tribute to his father, the maker of the door he used for a desk, which is the name of Scott’s artistic website (ADoorforaDesk.com), he sees songwriting and creativity as a craft.  “You get a hammer and a nail and a saw, and you make a thing…”

“I don’t believe in inspiration,” says Whiddon, “I just don’t. I think it’s a bullshit word.” Rather, he sees creativity and songwriting as a craft. “I try to block off “x” amount of time every day, and that time can wax and wane depending on what’s going on. You sit there, at the same place, with the same tools every day and you throw your antennae up.”  It’s a commitment, and you have to be willing to put in the work. “For me it’s all about craft, rather than any sort of inspirational artistic mysticism,” he says.

Scott has been putting together shows with his fellow local musicians to benefit Habitat for Humanity, honoring the elder Whiddon’s dedication to the organization’s works in the last decade of his life.  The first was a Velvet Underground charity show at The Burl with Robby Cosenza, Kim Smith, Tim Welch, Willie Eames and Sam McWilliams. Two months ago he held a Pink Floyd show at Cosmic Charlie’s, recreating the entire Dark Side of the Moon album with Kevin Holm-Hudson, Mark Richardson, Thomas Hatton, Jim Gleason and others.  More Habitat benefit shows will follow, with two already in the works.

Scott attributes much of his contribution to a deep bench of talent in such a small city, with so many great songwriters, technicians, musicians. Considering the “Ratio of talent to numbers…we’re lucky.”

Indeed.

Come out and support some of this Lexington talent on Saturday July 22nd.  The Volare String Quartet will open the evening with a set of experimental classical music.  Then Scott will take the stage, solo at first, later to be joined by Cosenza, Hnatow,Wright and Jimmy Early of Frigid Kitty. Italian Beaches will close out the night; a unique line-up curated by Whiddon himself. 

The Green Lantern is located at 497 W 3rd St. Lexington, Kentucky

(Photo credit: Ann Sydney Taylor Photography | Album Cover by Neil Bell)

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