UK UNCUT MAGAZINE REVIEW
WHITLEY'S DIRTY BLUES: by David Fricke
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."