Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Chris Whitley

I just discovered Chris Whitley a couple of weeks before he died on November 20 of last year. Forty-five years old, lung cancer cut short his life. And I feel saddened I didn't know about him sooner.

His first release came out in 1991, and his last in 2005, I only have three of his CDs so far: "War Crime Blues" (his shattering response to the Iraqi War from 2004), last year's "Soft Dangerous Shores", and a 2002 compilation called "Long Way Around", as well as a download of a live show from his web site. All I can say is that everything I've heard so far has blown me away.

From the majestic sweep of "Big Sky Country" to the spare Delta blues treatment of The Clash's "Call Up", he puts a range of feeling and heart into his singing and playing which is rare to hear in this day and age. And he plays slide guitar like he was born with one in his hands.

There are some obvious references to substance abuse and hard living in his songs, but he put a depth and intelligence in everything he played. Better late than never, I say. His music will live on, and his voice reaches out to grab and speak to the listener, death no barrier for an artist of this stature.

Rest easy, Chris. I come to you late, but I am a fan.

No comments: