The News & Observer
Sunday, May 3, 1998
Simple Interest: by David Menconi
* * * 1/2
At the far end of the spectrum from the Propellarheads' hopped-up studio trickery is Chris Whitley's beyond-stark "Dirt Floor" (Messenger Records). You wouldn't think it possible to do anything too startling with just voice, acoustic guitar and 12 bar blues in 1998. But darned if Whitley doesn't manage it here. Whitley's previous three albums were all lavishly produced affairs, solid yet also somewhat overdone. By contrast, "Dirt Floor" was recorded in a single day on one microphone, reportedly in a barn in Vermont. It sounds as if producer Craig Street turned on the tape machine and then cut it off 27 minutes later. The nine songs that come in between are pretty amazing. Whitley sings his stream-of-consciousness lyrics in a clear, unadored voice and makes his guitar do marvelously evocative things. From the first note, "Dirt Floor" rings perfectly true. There is nothing too fancy about this, except that it sounds so right. Recommended to anybody who takes pin-up poseurs like Jonny Lang seriously.