01. - Lyrics - Excerpt
02. - Lyrics - Living with the Law
03. - Lyrics - Big Sky Country
04. - Lyrics - Kick the Stones
05. - Lyrics - Make the Dirt Stick
06. - Lyrics - Poison Girl
07. - Lyrics - Dust Radio
08. - Lyrics - Phone Call from Leavenworth
09. - Lyrics - I Forget You Every Day
10. - Lyrics - Long Way Around
11. - Lyrics - Look What Love Has Done
12. - Lyrics - Bordertown
13. - Lyrics - [unnamed]
The Musicians and other credits:
Chris Whitley - vocals, national acoustic, electric and bass guitars
Ronald Jones - drums
Daryl Johnson - bass
Bill Dillon - guitar, oedal steel
Malcolm Burn - keyboards, tambourine
Peter Conway - harmonica on "Kick The Stones"
Alan Gevaert - bass on "Make The Dirt Stick"
Daniel Lanois - guitar on "Poison Girl"
Deni Bonet - viola on "Poison Girl"
Daniel Whitley - guitar on "Long Way Around"
Produced and mixed by Malcolm Burn
/ Press Reviews /
Chris Whitley's extraordinary debut album, is fantasy blues - bona fide poetry and National steel guitar conjuring dream imagery from some surreal western movie. Riveting and original, Whitley mines roots music not as an imitator but as a visionary who trades on archetypal symbols and classic riffs to fashion his own twilit American mythology.
Produced by Daniel Lanois's keyboardist Malcolm Burns, Living with the Law borrows its clean, dramatic gorgeousness from Lanois's Acadie. In addition, Whitley appears to have learned from the Velvet Underground about the unsettling pleasure of novel instrumentation; he juxtaposes, for example, harsh electric guitar with viola. And as a lyricist, Whitley musters a breathtakingly distinctive voice. "Walk it with the spirit/Talk it with the spine", begins the last verse of "Dust Radio." Then that folk poetry takes on a spookiness that rivals the stories of Flannery O'Connor or the spirit-haunted art of Howard Finster: "Mama sing' 'Open up yourself when worlds align'My secret Jesus/The good red road/On blood antenna/And dust radio."
Often, a song will begin w ith Whitley singing and playing spare slide-guitar melodies; gradually, as the full band kicks in, the song mounts to an electric, drum-heavy crescendo. Chris's brother, Daniel, joins him on guitar for the feedback frenzy that climaxes "Long Way Around." On the title track and elsewhere, snare drums brushed lightly meet up with bass lines as heavy as a farmer's boots.
In terms of smart, revisionist Americana, there have been noble precedents for Whitley's efforts - Ry cooder's wry homage's to primitivism come to mind, as do Lyle Lovett's smarter takes on country music, and even Nick Cave's epic rockabilly. And yet, with transporting songs like "Phonecall From Leavenworth," "I Forget You Everyday" and "Look What Love Has Done," there hasn't been music as wise as Whitley's in quite some time.
"Living With the Law" announces the arrival of a moor songwriter/guitarist who plays and sings the white-boy blues with more conviction and authority than anyone since the debuts of Ry Cooder and Lowell George. Whitley's sneaky melodies are ably complemented by the spare moody production of Malcolm Burn, Daniel Lanois' keyboardist. His earthy voice strikes shivers when it unexpectedly jumps to a falsetto moan, and his guitar playing is punctuated by corrosive sustains that evoke the vast, arid terrain of the Southwest. Sure, Whitley has listened to his share of Delta blues records, but his vivid story songs - about drifters, loners and burned-out romantics in settings as varied as the open road, a bedroom and a prison cell - are contemporary jewels.
Originality is rare today in any medium, so it's a double treat to run across this exquisite new album. The well-traveled Chris Whitley, who came from Austin and has lived in Vermont, Connecticut, Belgium and Mexico, plays intricate, crying country blues on a variety of National Steel acoustic guitars, But what makes it so original is the fusion with the psychedelic, space-rock guitar weave of Daniel Lanois. Lanois, who has also worked with U2, Peter Gabriel and Bob Dylan, helps give a haunting, otherworldly spin to such romantically fractured tunes as "I Forget You Every Day" and "Dust Radio". But the star remains Whitley, whose unusual bent-note singing and spare but deeply affecting lyrics mark him as a true discovery. Songs like "Living With the Law," "Big Sky Country" and "Phone Call from Leavenworth" linger long after the music ends.
Whitley plays acoustic slide like a Delta bluesman, sings falsetto with the grace of a Kentucky hillbilly and urges his band into grooves as hypnotic and intense as any on The Joshua Tree. Not bad for a novice. But what ultimately makes Living with the Law such as arresting debut are the songs, artfully drawn and insinuatingly tuneful, coming s close to short-story writing as anything that can be hummed. An utterly addictive album.