Chris Whitley

Weed

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AllMusic Review by

Weed is one of two albums issued by Chris Whitley as interim offerings between Hotel Vast Horizon and his forthcoming studio outing available only at gigs or from the Messenger Records web site. This volume features solo acoustic versions of songs from his catalog while the other, War Crime Blues, contains eight new songs and three cover tunes, also done solo. Weed is revelatory because it showcases the depth and breadth of Whitley's abilities as a songwriter. When Living With the Law was issued, its many fans identified at least as much with the sound of the record as its material. Over a decade later, it's the songs, naked and alone, that continue to haunt with their spectral power and West Texas desert blues ethos. Tracks like "Big Sky Country," "Kick the Stones," "Living With the Law," "Bordertown," and "I Forget You Everyday," become more poignant, offering their beautiful, raw sexuality and seductively brutal images without hesitation or artifice. Alternately, songs from Din of Ecstasy, Terra Incognita, and Rocket House can be re-evaluated as the work of a master songwriter. Apart from their overdriven beat consciousness and razored guitar scree, they come off as vulnerable yet taut, nocturnal yet still insistent, and as lyrically sophisticated as they are musically anchored to American roots music in all its off-kilter, rhythm-saturated adventurousness. Whitley is a true bluesman, pure and simple, and the evidence lies in his songs. If the studio albums don't immediately give that impression, the immediacy of this humble project, recorded live to Mini Disc, makes that determination unmistakable. For anyone who has ever considered or dismissed him, Weed is the document that demands a new hearing. For those familiar with the material, this set will come as a bolt of lightning across the night sky. For others who have never heard him, the album is the sound of pure unabashed seduction.

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