A black silhouette of a hawk flies over a green/beige sky.

Local Review: Whisperhawk – Keepers of the Earth Vol. 2

Local Music Reviews

Keepers of the Earth Vol. 2

Antelope Island Music
Street: 11.02
Whisperhawk = John Prine + Slaughter Beach, Dog

Shoshone singer-songwriter Michael Gross, formerly of The Statuettes, wrote Keepers of the Earth Vol. 2 as “a tribute to [his] Native American brothers and sisters.” Instrumentally, it’s mellow and unembellished, but the album’s lyrical journey is more complex: almost mournful, then defiantly anthemic and finally, at peace. Volume 1, Keepers of the Earth, came out in 2020 and featured a full band. Keepers of the Earth Vol. 2—entirely written, performed, recorded and mixed by Gross alone—establishes Whisperhawk as a storyteller above all else. 

To offer a metaphor: Modern Baseball is to Slaughter Beach, Dog what The Statuettes is to Whisperhawk. Gross strips back his indie rock foundation and expands his emotional palette on this acoustic solo project, finding strong footing with a simple message. The first and title track establishes a steady, beating heart and a hymnal quality to the meditative power ballads to come. 

Some songs are more abstract than others; Whisperhawk’s pure, melancholy songwriting on “Goodbye Old Times Pt. 2” carries a weight that doesn’t quite match the mellow chord progressions: “Bury me beneath the trees, where we once were free / Take me home, immerse my bones with the mother earth.” Meanwhile, his satirical commentary about celebrating the transcontinental railroad on “Party at Promontory Pt. 2” combined with soft, bluesy harmonica is vaguely reminiscent of John Prine

He recounts another dark moment in Shoshone history on “Bear River Pt. 2,” which opens with the question, “What becomes of a man who lives with blood on his hands, like you do? Who gets your soul?” The Bear River Massacre of 1863 was the most deadly attack by the US military on Native Americans in history, and Whisperhawk doesn’t hold back any biting words. The track “Easier For You” is even more haunting, referencing both the not-so-far-away past of forced government boarding schools and the present-day erasure of Indigenous people in history books. 

“Sleep Pt. 2” and “We’re Still Here Pt. 2” are anthems of resilience. “We will never rest until our story’s told,” he sings with unwavering intensity. “We will not forget, we will make you whole.” It’s a fitting end to the album’s lyrical journey, and it leaves you with a sense of tranquil contemplation. Keepers of the Earth Vol. 2 proves that Whisperhawk is an masterful storyteller as well as musician—like the kind of soulful street performer that stops you in your tracks. –Asha Pruitt

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