01. - Lyrics - Dirt Floor
02. - Lyrics - Long Way Around
03. - Lyrics - Firefighter
04. - Lyrics - God Thing
05. - Lyrics - Poison Girl
06. - Lyrics - New Machine
07. - Lyrics - Living with the Law
08. - Lyrics - WPL
09. - Lyrics - The Model
10. - Lyrics - Home is Where You Get Across
11. - Lyrics - From One island to Another
12. - Lyrics - Serve You
13. - Lyrics - Narcotic Prayer
14. - Lyrics - Big Sky Country
The Musicians and other credits:
Chris Whitley - vocals, guitar and boot
Ken Helie (Major Love) - tour manager, front of house
Chris Reali - guitar tech, stage manager and rector of reality
Produced by John Alagia
Mixed and engineered by John Alagia and Jeff Juliano,
assisted by Ken Helie
/ Press Reviews /
The post-Hendrix explosion of whammybar wankers hasn't produced a single axeman who can compare to Chris Whitley. His eerie, bluesy voice and American gothic tunes frequently draw attention from the fact that he picks like a pissed off Doc Watson jacked through a Marshall stack. Whitley has never been one to sit still, shifting gears from the dusty beauty of his last album, the spare Dust Floor. This live album, Whitley's fifth release, finds him making plenty of racket with just his voice, guitar and the occasional stomp in Chicago last year. Familiar tunes drastically restructured, a handful of new tracks, a Kraftwerk cover . . . you can have your Frampton, this is how you make a live album.
"Both the elliptical reveries of his lyrics and the push-and-pull tension of his guitar parts produce blues unlike any you've ever heard."
Recorded at a club in Chicago, Live at Martyrs' 15 tracks include two new songs, "Firefighter" and "Serve You." The latter's lyrics ("Now the moon will rise/ On your naked faith/ Cause a wave to break/ Where you bathe") are of Whitley's crystalizing mix of symbolism and questioning spirituality. Musically, he's moved from atmospheric, rootsy blues-rock grunge to artful noise and back toward raw-boned blues again, but on Live, he fuses those sonic elements to support the mercurial feel of the music. His voice, by turns spectral and fierce, uses melody as an emotional springboard. "Home Is Where You Get Across", which he sends out to his daughter Trixie, is one of the album's exciting highlights, as the audience cheers approval of Whitley's spirited slide guitar playing. Often praised for the ferocity of his attack, he also executes some nimble fingerwork on "Long Way Around," "New Machine" and the hungrily wailed "Living With the Law".
Unlike cliche-wielding blues pretenders, Chris Whitley follows in the footsteps of the form's pioneers by forging his own soulful path. The singer/songwriter ups the ante on his stark '98 opus, "Dirt Floor," with this stripped-down solo set, recorded live last year at the Chicago club Martyrs'. Whitley's howling-at-the-moon vocals, rawboned guitar polyphony, and rhythmic boot-stomping make for a potent one-man band, and his best songs carry the salutary impact of a well-timed shot of bourbon. Here, he essays new and vintage numbers, all full of romance and regret, brooding and beauty. High points include the dusky title track and gospel-tinged "Big Sky Country" from his classic Columbia debut, "Living With The Law," plus the high-lonesome title tune to "Dirt Floor" and urban dirge "Narcotic Prayer" from the unsung "Din Of Ecstasy." But perhaps most illustrative of Whitley's unique invention is his cover of Kraftwerk's "The Model," as he transforms the satiric electro-pop original into elegiac social commentary. One of the compelling things about singer-guitarist Whitley is the tension between his shyness and his blistering power when he rocks out. That tension fuels live, with Whitley reining himself in until he finally cuts loose, especially on the incendiary "Gasket."
One of the compelling things about singer-guitarist Whitley is the between his shyness and his blistering power when he rocks out. That tension fuels live, with Whitley reining himself in until he finally cuts loose, especially on the incendiary "Gasket." Not many can get on stage alone and make this unholy and splendid a racket.