Chris Whitley "Dirt Floor"
It's tempting to say that Whitley's playing combines the raw urgency of Neil Young, the harmonic adverturism of Richard Thompson, and the hyper-charged sensitivity of Ry Cooder, except that such comparisons don't do justice to such a startlingly original avant blues style. Whitley's basic materials are familiar: an earthy John Lee Hooker thump, keening glisses, and swampy, open-tuned finger-picking. But the singer/quitarist jettisons all standard blues formulas-there are no pat 12-bar structures, no tidy turnaraounds, no Hendrix/SRV rip-offs. Whitley's previous discs have veered from meditative beauty to violent squalls that suggested Son House jamming with Sonic Youth. This time around, he performs the entire album on solo acoustic resophonic without overdubs. If anything, unplugging has amplified the intensity of Whitley's songs. The results fall into that rarest of categories: music both unrefined and masterful.