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Dirt Floor

Chris Whitley

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Album Review

This is the most consistent and accessible disc of Chris Whitley's off-and-on recording career. The album is just Whitley singing and accompanying himself on banjo, guitar and foot stomp. It has a simple and wonderfully stripped-down sound that fits perfectly with the morose yet tumultuous mood of the songs, establishing a strong atmosphere that is almost as important to the work as the mood in a '40s film noir. This is an exceedingly short work, only 27+ minutes, yet it really shouldn't be much longer. If you were expecting Big Sky Country in sound, you will be both happy and disappointed: happy because there is the same stripped-down, nasal singing and story-songs, and disappointed because there is not as much dobro, nor a band helping him flesh out the tunes. He does an excellent job on the small amount of material here, yet it does not develop into anything due to the lack of time; at the same time, the tone is so very angst-ridden that the short length may work in its favor. There are no liner notes or comments for this disc. What is here is excellent in its own right and stands up as some of his best work; I just wonder if maybe another song or two might have made it a stronger work.

Customer Reviews

Dead at 45

It's so sad to discover this amazing, original artist at his peak had just passed away from lung cancer. He joins the pantheon of great musicians that have died too early. Anchored in the traditions of southern blues, his music reflects the raw power that great writing coupled with skilled playing on a National can bring to his listening audience. This album, along with 'Living with the Law' are a great introduction to this fine man. He will be missed.

A small, perfect thing

After the major record labels, studio wizardry and exquisite experimentation of previous efforts, Whitley recorded the aptly-titled "Dirt Floor" in a remote farmhouse in, like, a day. A must-have for any fan of modern acoustic music, "Dirt Floor" is to Whitley's catalogue what "Pink Moon" is to Nick Drake's, or "Blue" to Joni Mitchell's: a simple, unedited document that shows what a great recording artist can do with sparse, sometimes stark accompaniment. At his best, Whitley was an awesome performer, in the strictest sense of the word-- a true innovator who forged otherwordly hybrids of multiple genres by challenging traditional approaches to guitar and song form with an earthy, poetic soul. Often called a blues artist or singer/songwriter, standard rockist definitions hardly describe the scope of Whitley's talent. But of all his work, this record may come closest to pinpointing the core of his distinct artistic spirit. It is wild country, indeed. Also recommended: "Din Of Ecstasy," a modern rock-apocolyptic masterpiece; "Rocket House," a shotgun wedding of the digital and analog via turntables and National guitars, and "Soft Dangerous Shores," one of the last releases before Whitley's untimely death in 2005 that is perhaps the closest the artist ever came to realizing a classic modernist vision that was strange and beautiful, simultaneously old and new, poisoned and tainted, but utterly pure.

barebones beauty

i dare you to listen to the title track and not cry. this album is the sound of a lone genius at work. incredible guitar work, as always. we miss you dreadfully


Born: August 31, 1960 in Houston, TX

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Chris Whitley was a Texas-based singer/songwriter who initially began his career as a bluesy roots rocker, but as his career progressed, he moved deeper into rock & roll and alternative rock. Though Whitley's albums usually received positive reviews, they rarely sold, and his tendency to rework...
Full Bio
Dirt Floor, Chris Whitley
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Customer Ratings