In 1989, Keith Whitley, the bluegrass-influenced country star, died of alcohol poisoning at age 33. Citing him as an influence and an inspiration, Whitley's peers have banded together to pay him homage.
Beginning with Whitley's most well-known hit, "Don't Close Your Eyes," Alan Jackson sends this tribute album off with a bang, successfully adding his own sound to a song so closely identified with Whitley. On "Ten Feet Away," Diamond Rio's Marty Roe glides with the graceful notes of the sly chord changes. Alison Krauss is, as usual, extraordinary with her ethereal soprano--the ultimate bluegrass voice--on "When You Say Nothing At All."
Tracy Byrd's "I'm All Over You," is one of his best performances, offering the prophetic line "you heard I'm drinkin' more than I should," which adds an eerie quality to the album. Perhaps even more than the three Whitley recordings, and his rare duet with wife Lorrie Morgan, "I Just Want You."
Another ironic inclusion is Joe Diffie's rhythmic, upbeat rendition of "I'm No Stranger To The Rain," the Whitley record riding the charts the day he died. Other highlights include Mark Chesnutt's superb cover of the Lefty Frizzell chestnut "I Never Go Round Mirrors" and the album-ending all-star jam "A Voice Still Rings True."
Whitley's was a short but influential life, and this tribute album does his brief, bright career justice.