Thursday, October 23, 2014

Three for the Ride: Chris Whitley.

I'm taking a break from the usual format to focus on one artist today. A good friend and band mate sent me a link to a rough cut of a Chris Whitley documentary. As a result, I feel compelled to share just his music today. If you love music and you don't know who he was, you should. You've been missing out on the most unique talent to come along in the last 30 years. We lost Chris in 2005 to the ravages of his addictions. It's tragic. There is likely to never be anyone like him ever again. As they said in the documentary, "we have his records."

Chris's music goes way beyond just blues or rock as it is often categorized. There's something raw and essential about his music. He released over a dozen records and every one is different from the next. He was an ever-changing artist, but that amazing guitar talent and voice always remained. Take a listen. If you like what you hear, and want to hear more, pick up his debut album, Living With the Law (1991). It's a must for every collection.

Here's three for today:

Chris Whitley: "To Joy (Revolution of the Innocents)"
This is the opening track from 2001's Rocket House, Chris's sixth studio album. Chris added a DJ to his band for this record, so it's a departure from a lot of his earlier work. Other guest artists on the record include Dave Matthews and Bruce Hornsby. It's a very "accessible" record.

Chris Whitley: "Accordingly"
In 1998, Chris had been dropped by Columbia records and signed with a small indie label, Messenger Records. Unlike the high production value of his earlier records, Dirt Floor (1998) was basically Chris with one microphone, singing and playing in a barn. He recorded it in a day. It's a very pure record - an artist exposed and vulnerable. I got to see him play solo like this, years earlier, in a club with about 50 people in attendance. It remains the most impactful performance I have ever experienced.

Chris Whitley: "Dust Radio"
This song evokes an almost spiritual experience. It reaches me in ways that are devastating. I think it's his best work and the production on it is amazing. It's from his debut record Living With the Law (1991), a must-have-on-the-island record.

Until next time...

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