Chris Whitley,
War Crime Blues
(Messenger, 2004)

Chris Whitley's latest album, War Crime Blues, is a lonesome rag from a disconnected post-apocalyptic digital age. Unlike the polished studio blues of artists like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Whitley always reaches deep back into the Delta, to the roots of the tradition.

Standout tracks like "Her Furious Angels" and the title track showcase Whitley's sparse, yet complex picking patterns while highlighting, as well, his adept literary talent. The same jovial energy Chris bombarded us with in earlier hits like "Scrapyard Lullaby" keeps the listener hooked to the folksy drone of his acoustic axe. Another jewel is Whitley's cover of the Lou Reed tune "I Can't Stand It," bridging folk-blues and old-guard punk in an irresistible fusion.

If you're a fan of Whitley's early work, you'll not be let down, but if you're unfamiliar with the artist and a fan of good blues, then War Crime Blues is definitely worth a spin. The work is from the same vein as earlier releases: nouveau-vintage acoustic Delta blues. (Did I just make that up?)

Crying guitars and moanful wails leading up to the beautiful closer, "Nature Boy," will keep you in that high lonesome place every time you give it a listen.

- Rambles
written by Philip Fairbanks
published 18 June 2005

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