Chris Whitley stands as a real troubadour. Perfect Day, Whitley’s sixth CD, is a collection of cover songs. Whitley manages to elude crippling industry labels by never staying in one place too long.
The acoustic Perfect Day sounds similar to Whitley’s last studio release, the bluesy Dirt Floor. Billy Martin (drums & percussion) and Chris Wood (acoustic bass & ‘strange overtones’), both of the group Medeski, Martin, and Wood, contributes a definite jazz element to Whitley’s latest release recorded in two days during March of 2000.
A cutthroat guitar player, Whitley remains an underrated songwriter. He was discovered over a decade ago by Daniel Lanois (produced records for Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris) who helped Whitley complete his first album, Living with The Law, in 1991.
Perfect Day is a moody compilation. Whitley’s style blends these diverse songs into a fluent collection. Perfect Day could be interpreted like Bob Dylan’s World Gone Wrong or Coltrane’s Dakar. There’s a stark grace to the sound of the album as if the musicians were the house band of some dark opium den.
Dylan’s “Spanish Harlem Incident” is the first track on this thirty-nine minute CD. Some other songs Whitley covers are Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”, Jimi Hendrix’s “Drifting”, and Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”, Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful”, and Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway”.
Chris Whitley is a rolling stone. You never know where he’ll travel next, but rest assured, it’ll be low down and dirty.
- James Calemine