Guitar World Acoustic
Chris Whitley
Dirty Work
by Jim Coen


"Quiet music is often more intense than loud music," says Chris Whitley,
speaking of Dirt Floor (Messenger), his fourth release and first without a
band.  After two hard-rocking albums dominated by his own distortion-laden
electric playing, Whitley's latest shows him returning to the acoustic
sounds of his critically acclaimed 1991 debut, Living with the Law
(Columbia).

Whitley recorded Dirt Floor in a 200-year-old Vermont farmhouse, with only
one stereo ribbon microphone hanging from the ceiling to record his vocals,
guitar (banjo for one tune) and foot tapping.  Most of the raw, rough-edged
tracks were recorded in one day.  "The coolest production aspect of it was
deciding what time of day to record a song, as opposed to what effects or
overdubs to use," he says.  "It's unembellished; no extraneous stuff.  I've
alway responded well to that."

Whitley also responds well to vintage guitars, especially his '31 National
Triolian steel body guitar, which he plays, in various open tunings, on
most of the new album.  "I gravitate to it because it sounds rude," he
says.  "I have a Martin 00-15, but it almost sounds too pretty to write
songs with.  It doesn't motivate me like the National."

While Whitley's slashing slide fills at times make him sound like the
spiritual son of Delta bluesman Son House, he admits, "I never studied any
old blues records or slide guitarists.  I listened to and have high regard
for, artists like Son House, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, but I never
tried to emulate them."

Whitley plans to record with a band again later this year, but will first
set out on a solo tour to promote the new CD.