The First 'Best Album' of 1998: After a critically applauded
but commercially uneven tenure at Columbia records, the maverick
blues singerand guitarist, Chris Whitley, has made a career-defining
record of solo,single-take dynamite entitled 'Dirt Floor', featuring
just Whitley's voice and the gritty, glass-fingered skid of his 
National steel guitar, and recorded for a mere pittance: 1500. And 
the album's producer/engineer, Craig Street, says most of that money
went for truck rental, to get the recording gear from New York city 
up to Whitley's father's farm in Vermont. "We set the gear up in the
kitchen and Chris was in his father's workshop", says Street, whose
production resume includes acclaimed records by Cassandra Wilson, 
Jimmy Scott and K.d Lang. "Chris sang into a microphone hanging from
a piece of baling wire" Whitley and Street recorded from 11 in the 
morning until 11 that night, taking a single break for pizza. The next
day, they sequenced the material and run off CD-reference copies. 

The result, clocking in at a taut, pithy nine songs and 27 minutes,
combines the gritty traditionalism of Robert Johnson's 1936 hotel-room
sessions with the Zen-like confessional tension and solitary ache of 
Nick Drake's 'Pink Moon'. Street says that one of the highest, early 
compliments he's received of the record came from the black critic and
essayist, Greg Tate, who said that Whitley sounded like the "blackest 
white man I know."