Chris Whitley

The singer, guitarist and songwriter Chris Whitley died last year, taking from us one of the more creative and interesting artists of the late 20th century. Ironically, I have not personally given his career justice as the only album I possess of his is Living WithThe Law, his breakthrough record from 1991.

This is a mistake.

Whitley joins a number of artists who operated largely below my radar in the latter 1990s and 2000s that I really need to become better acquainted with. For the simple truth is that the turn of the century has produced just as much good music as any prior time, but I have not turned onto it.

This is going to change.

The two music courses I took last year have acted as catalysts for this, primarily because I explored in depth areas both known and unknown to me, and have unearthed reams of fabulous – and largely unknown – music in the process. Most importantly, I was reminded that great music is made all the time and all it takes to find it is a curious mind.

Listening again to Living With The Law, as I am doing tonight, is strongly affirming of this sentiment. Not least because of Whitley’s deep and symbiotic understanding of American vernacular music, particularly roots blues and folk on this record.

Reading about his later albums, I realise he is an artist of far wider range than even the expansive Law reveals, and I need to explore this music.

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