Home Read Classic Album Review: Chris Whitley | Perfect Day

Classic Album Review: Chris Whitley | Perfect Day

The singer's sixth album finds him taking on the role of reinterpretive avant-bluesman.

This album came out two decades ago. Here’s what I had to say about it back then (with some minor editing):


For those who still don’t know: Texas-born bluesman Chris Whitley is not to be confused with Canadian folk-bluesman Chris Whiteley.  Although it’s easy to see how folks could mix ’em up — aside from their names, both share a taste for the blues and an eclectic streak. The Yank Whitley especially — he’s tried his hand at everything from roots-rock to alterna-grunge in his decade-long career.

Perfect Day, his pared-down sixth album, finds him stepping into the role of reinterpretive avant-bluesman. Over the course of 11 cover tunes, Whitley travels through a half-century’s worth of unforgettable American songwriting, from the early black-snake moans of Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lighting and Robert Johnson’s Stones in my Pathway to the psychedelic blues of Jimi Hendrix’s Drifting, Jim Morrison’s Crystal Ship and the Lou Reed title track. The sound is as rough and ragged as Whitley’s haggard-looking cover shot, with jazzbo drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood creating a loose-limbed, clattery backdrop for Chris’s smoky, world-weary vocals and lazy guitar. With Perfect Day, Whitley sets himself apart from the pack once and for all.