Chris Whitley

Perfect Day

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After issuing the spare, entirely solo Live at Martyrs' in early 2000, Chris Whitley returned to the studio with drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood (of Medeski, Martin & Wood fame) to cut the similarly low-key, all covers album Perfect Day. It's a mix of blues standards and rock songs with a poetic bent (writers like Dylan, Reed, and Morrison) all given hauntingly minimalistic treatments. Whitley's guitar work is subdued and spacious, as are Martin and Wood's constantly shifting backing rhythms. The cover photo of a haggard-looking Whitley sets the tone for his performances: he sounds committed but weary, which gives these renditions a darkly compelling power. "Spoonful," in particular, often seems on the verge of falling apart, as Whitley's guitar slashes almost randomly over the rhythm section's syncopations. But -- perhaps like the singer himself -- it somehow holds together in the face of desperation, which is a handy way to sum up the album's impact as a whole.

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