Oct 052012

If you’re a sucker for the sound of a slide on a National resonator guitar, and you were sitting at a bar havin’ a few beers with Dylan, Robert Johnson, Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Ry Cooder, and Chet Baker, you’d have to scoot over for Chris Whitley.

Scrapyard Lullaby

Ball Peen Hammer

The Texan born Whitley, once described as looking like “Kate Moss in a wifebeater,” is one of those tragic figures whose death in his prime cemented his legendary status as a bluesman. It’s evident just from the sound of him that he has a hellhound on his trail, and he’s applied that feeling and introspection to several solo recordings as well as work with Arto Lindsay, Daniel Lanois, Cassandra Wilson, Shawn Colvin, Mike Watt, Joe Henry, and Medeski, Martin & Wood.

4th Time Around

Hellhound On My Trail (live)

There’s something confessional about his playing and his singing. When I hear his notes and his whispered croak of a voice, he seems to be finding his way as he goes. It almost seems he’s attacking each chord and note, separating them into distinct entities to mine even the most minute musical potential. His eerie recordings divulge and wrangle with his demons, and his work sounds like hard-won wisdom.

I Wanna Be Your Dog

I Go Evil

Okay, let those opinions fly.


  4 Responses to “Dobro Breakin’ My Heart”

  1. BigSteve

    I treasure his records, and I miss him terribly.

  2. When this guy was alive he seemed so programmed to set off my bloozophobia that I don’t know if I ever gave him a chance. I was even given a CD of his to review many moons ago. It took his death to get me to really hear any of his music. He was really good. He was not what I expected. Even the fact that his death (OD?) ties him more tightly to the hellhound mythology I can’t stand doesn’t get in the way of his music. Bloozophobes should not be afraid to check out these tracks.

  3. Slim Jade

    Lung cancer, actually. His daughter Trixie sings with Daniel Lanois these days.

  4. Non-easy listening. More something to listen in awe of than actively enjoy. Not much of his stuff has the sound of “Poison Girl”, which is a staple on the NPR station round here. I remember seeing Whitley with some otherwise non-adventurous friends at a small venue with great sound and the constant amplified dobro was really grating after a few tunes.

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