Whitley became a critic's darling with the release of his first album, the 1991 dobro-inflected, soulful Living With the Law. He answered the adulation with 1995's Din of Ecstasy, an artistically daring and sonically dissonant guitar album that emphasized his music's harder side and confounded many of his previous support-ers. Terra Incognita, released last year, felt like an attempt to reconcile the strengths of both sides of his musical personality.
His newest offering, Dirt Floor (his first for NYC indie Messenger Records), has Whitley radically changing again, this time stripping away studio polish and exposing the raw songcraft underneath. Recorded live to two-track in a barn in upstate New York (and sounding like it), Dirt Floor is an all-acoustic album that echoes Living With the Law in its rootsiness, but is also clearly marked by Whitley's artistic meandering. Expect to see this quieter, more sultry side of Chris Whitley this time around.
-- Paul Kimball
Chris Whitley performs Wednesday, March 25, at 9:30 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas). Michelle Malone opens. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.