PUBLISHED IN THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR Thursday, May 4, 1995

 

BY NICK KREWEN

CHRIS WHITLEY's first album, 1991's Living With The Law, was widely hailed as a swamp blues masterpiece.

But don't expect the same praise for his new album, Din Of Ecstasy. A wall of blistering guitar has replaced the acoustic feel of the first album.

'"When I did Living With The Law, those songs were four years old at the time," explained Whitley during a recent Toronto visit. "But that album, with the exception of `Big Sky Country', was written to be played solo. Now it's four years later, and I wanted to make it less production deliberate. I wanted it to be more straight forward."

The time gap of four years between albums had more to do with the mechanics surrounding the recording process than the actual music making.

"Yeah, it's been frustrating because a lot of the mechanics involved -- getting into the studio, getting a producer," says the Houston-born Whitley, who has been performing for 19 of his 34 years. "This album really should have been released two years ago. I was originally waiting for ANDY WALLACE to produce the album, and then I changed my mind a month before he was able to do it," says Whitley. "DAVE JERDEN was the second guy, but then I ended up going with JOHN CUSTER."

Although Din Of Ecstasy embraces a shift of direction, Whitley says the album is closer to the music he played as a New York teenager.

"The first bands I had were trios when I was 17 in New York. This is the stuff I was doing before I was trying to get so concise about it. I was a little more vulnerable, a little more cantankerous. The writing is more guitar indulged. These things are little more harmonically stretched."

Whitley's career first received a boost five years ago from none other than local producer DANIEL LANOIS.

"I'd met him in New York City, and he introduced me to a woman he met who became my publisher the next day -- KATHLEEN CAREY. Dan gave her a tape of mine. Through Dan, I met MALCOLM (BURN) and immediately liked him, asked if he wanted to work together. I respected him and liked his values."

Shortly thereafter, Columbia signed him to a deal and Burn produced Living With The Law, recorded at Lanois' Kingsway Studio in New Orleans.

Whitley says he'd like to work again with Lanois in the future.

"I've talked to Dan recently in the last few months about doing stuff," he says. "He's really turned on by that whole trio concept. It's very pure musical expression because each element becomes more important in pragmatism. You get more inventive with what you have because you're limited.

"It's trying to relate to something organically. When you deal with more instruments, you get into stuff that's less fundamental and less important, and that's one of the reasons I tried to under produce this record. "

Whitley has just finished a series of six-week residencies and a European tour, and plans to perform in North America for the summer. As for his ultimate goal, Whitley feels the journey is just as rewarding as the end result.

"I feel like it's more like a process," says the soft-spoken Whitley. "There's always a place I want to get to, but anything you do is part of the education. I'd like to be more recognized and I'd like to make a more stable living."

-30-

DISCOGRAPHY

1991 -- Living With The Law -- Columbia

1995 -- Din Of Ecstasy

1996 -- Terra Incognita

1998 -- Dirt Floor

1999 -- Live At Martyr's --   Messenger

 

COLLABORATIONS

1991 -- Various Artists, Soundtrack -- Thelma & Louise

1992 -- Various Artists, Fathers And Sons

1994 -- Various Artists, Soundtrack -- So I Married An Ax Murderer

1996 -- Rob Wasserman, Trios

1998 -- Various Artists, Superbad @ 65: A Tribute To James Brown

 

CONTRIBUTIONS

1993 -- Cassandra Wilson, Blue Dawn's Light

1994 -- Shawn Colvin, Fat City

1994 -- Cassandra Wilson, New Moon Daughter

1997 -- Melissa Sheehan, Kneel   (EP)

1998 -- Johnny Society, Wood

 

THANKS: ROB MITCHELL, WADE HEMSWORTH

©1995, 1999 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink

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