CMJ New Music Monthly
Matt Ashare
CHRIS WHITLEY 
Live At Martyrs'

Chris Whitley's a singer/songwriter who sounds and looks like he's already 
been there and back again, like someone who only narrowly escaped an 
encounter with a reaper he no longer has to fear.  His is a bluesier 
muse than Buckley's, one that finds soulful rattle and open-tuned drone 
of his dobrow guitar and the earthy-yet-mystical lyrics.  As potent a 
player as he is (as captured here, solo at Martyrs in Chicago over 
three August nights in 1999), Whitley's reached that hard-to-pinpoint 
place Buckley seemed to be headed, a place where hard-earned transcendence 
comes as easily as a 1-4-5 blues.  "There's a dirty floor underneath 
here/To received us when changes fail," Whitley sings against the warning 
buzz of a few skeletal chords in "Dirt Floor," acknowledging his intimacy 
with the other side of transcendence, the mortal side you often have to 
live hard enough to encounter before you find what you're really looking for.