Chris Whitley: 10 Of The Best

The new issue of Classic Rock includes a look back over the all-too-short life of Chris Whitley, the Texan troubadour who took the blues into dark and strange new places, influencing everyone from Joe Bonamassa to Johnny Lang along the way. Here are ten essential tracks from this most tragic of cult artists.

Big Sky Country

Whitley introduced himself via this intoxicating and widescreen calling card which conjured up images ofsun-scorched prairie plains and rolling skies.

From: Living With The Law (1991)

Phone Call From Leavenworth

Plangent blues narrative that bottles the outlaw spirit of Johnny Cash with an otherworldly essence.

From: Living With The Law (1991)


This densely constructed narcotic rush was the most approachable track from Whitley’s ‘difficult’ second album. Even then, to blues traditionalists it was as disorientating as an acid trip.

From: _Din Of Ecstasy _(1995)

Some Candy Talking

Like all the best bluesmen, Whitley was also a great interpreter, and this cover located a spooked soul at the heart of the original Jesus And Mary Chain track.

**From: **Din Of Ecstasy (1995)

Indian Summer

Whitley retreated to his father’s barn to lick his wounds, and made perhaps his finest record. On this track, his most affecting weeping wound, he sounds like a fallen angel.

**From: **Dirt Floor (1998)

Dirt Floor

Ageless blues hymnal that has the bone-dry feel of a desert and the beating heart of a poet. ‘There’s a dirt floor underneath here to receive us when changes fail’.

**From: **_Dirt Floor _(1998)

Rocket House

Loops, beats and Whitley’s Dobro resonator guitar conspire to fashion something entirely fresh and distinctive; as if the blues were being beamed back to earth from another galaxy.

From: Rocket House (2001)

Serve You

Brooding torch song, with Whitley’s daughter Trixie co-singing the main melody line and bringing a shaft of light to the encroaching darkness.

From: Rocket House (2001)

Breaking Your Fall

A hushed, atmospheric lament that circles around a mournful guitar figure. Imagine the blues reconfigured as the soundtrack to an art-house movie.

From: Hotel Vast Horizon (2003)

Invisible Day

Recorded underneath a bridge on the banks of the Elbe River in Dresden, Germany and into a hand-held microphone, this showcases Whitley naked and unadorned. As evocative as breath on a window.

From: War Crime Blues (2003)

Fallen Angel: The Life And Death Of Chris Whitley

Paul Rees

Paul Rees been a professional writer and journalist for more than 20 years. He was Editor-in-Chief of the music magazines Q and Kerrang! for a total of 13 years and during that period interviewed everyone from Sir Paul McCartney, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen to Noel Gallagher, Adele and Take That. His work has also been published in the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Evening Standard, the Sunday Express, Classic Rock, Outdoor Fitness, When Saturday Comes and a range of international periodicals.