Billboard Magazine
Bradley Bambarger

CHRIS WHITLEY 
Live At Martyrs' 
SPOTLIGHT 

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."  
Not many can get on stage alone and make this unholy and splendid a racket.