May 23, 2017

Today we celebrate the music of Chris Whitley, one of the most talented musicians of whom you’ve probably never heard.  We used to see Chris hanging around Greenwich Village in NYC in the late 80s and early 90s-hell we may have grubbed or given him cigarettes. He was so pure in his artistry just a few minutes with him let you know he was an absolute original. Chris sounded kind of spacey when he talked but when he played his beat up guitar it all made sense.  He was a space cadet blues man, mining the great beyond for nuggets of human pain and spiritual haunt.  His discography-especially his debut Living with the Law and ignored perfect albums Terra Incognita and Rocket House-is astounding. One of the Brown Brothers is partial to Dirt Floor, an economic diamond of an album clocking about 27 minutes. Live he could be spotty: at one mid-90s show he spent about half his time tuning his guitar, which sounded in-tune the whole time, all the while wailing “check, check” into the mic. But when he locked in to his inner voice he was as magically, naturally musical as any human being can be. He died way too soon at 45 because of lung cancer but the work he did while he was here will forever be cherished by fans of authenticity and the emotional gut punch of a guitar tuned directly to the human soul. He sometimes appeared terrified of his own power but never failed to inspire, as shown in this 1991 clip from Late Night With David Letterman:

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