Chris Whitley

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

It's easy to stack Chris Whitley's CDs in the blues bin; isn't that where every player of a National steel guitar belongs? But Whitley bridles at being called a bluesman, describing his music as "psychosexual, socio-spiritual love songs that hope to fuck with the stereotypes." Maybe Whitley's right. His most recent CD, Rocket House, was studded with guest shots from such notable non- bluesmen as Dave Matthews, Bruce Hornsby, turntablist DJ Logic and Indian percussionist Badal Roy. Clearly, Whitley loves most to fuck with stereotypes about himself.

Though Houston-born, Whitley was raised by his free-spirited mother in Mexico and Vermont and has spent chunks of his life busking in New York (where he says he sounded like "Gary Numan with a Dobro") and leading a band in Belgium. His career may have begun in the traditional Texas singer-songwriter vein, but it was his love for reckless rock and roll and other experimentation -- on and off stage -- that has been, according to some critics, his undoing.

It's been 11 years, seven albums, seven labels and one heroin addiction (cultivated and defeated) since Whitley's debut, Living with the Law. From the "Big Sky Country" bluesy folk of his debut to the grunge of Din of Ecstasy to the Beck-like eclecticism of Rocket House, Whitley changes musical direction about as often as Bob Dylan changes religion, which may keep things interesting for him but makes life tough on fans of any one Whitley album. One feels compelled to drag out a paraphrase of that tired Forrest Gump quote from a 1994 time capsule: Life is like Chris Whitley's next album, you never know, etc.


Chris Whitley

Engine Room, 1515 Pease

Friday, May 3; 713-654-7846

Whitley loathes structure. As he once told Salon.com, he loves kindred spirit Johnny Winter because the Beaumont-bred albino blues rocker has never been bounded by riffs or scales, instead he just "blows it out." The same can be said of Whitley, who has created some of his most compelling and startling work on recent releases such as the low-budget, stripped-down Dirt Floor and his cover collection, Perfect Day. Rather than follow the paint-by-numbers approach to writing, Whitley lets the world be his tableau.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.