Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Waxed - Record Review from Issue #15 May-June 1998

Chris Whitley

Dirt Floor (Messenger)

I still admire singer-guitarist Chris Whitley for following up his mostly acoustic debut, Living With The Law, with a white-noise album loud enough to make Sonic Youth wear earplugs. But it couldn’t have been good for his career.

Whitley, a skinny hunk type whose first single, 1991′s “Kick The Stones”, landed on the hit Thelma And Louise soundtrack, once had a contract with Sony Records and a gigantic buzz. An excellent slide guitarist with a curvy, confident voice that swings between high lonesome country and moaning country blues, Whitley unraveled that commercial potential one album at a time. Oddly, having emerged from 1995′s appropriately titled Din Of Ecstasy and 1996′s catchier-but-still-noisy Terra Incognita on a small New York City record label, he sounds much like he did at the start.

Dirt Floor, at least on the surface, has the same bouncy acoustic blues feeling as Whitley’s superb early singles, such as the minor radio hit “Poison Girl”. What’s different is a barren quality, a desperate confusion that’s occasionally similar to Richard Buckner’s suicidal country drone.

Whitley runs a lot on Dirt Floor, through barren Western lands and junkyards, to the water and away from the law. “Soon I’m gonna lose these rags and run,” he sings on “Wild Country”, then declares himself uncertain why all this running has to occur. “Tell me, Jesus, why’d he run?” he howls on “Ballpeen Hammer”, adding, “I’m gonna take this all for granted when I get there.” At the risk of reading too much into a lyric, this sure summarizes Whitley’s confused philosophy about his own career.

He finds his “Loco Girl” on the closing track, and she’s presumably not as potent as the “Poison Girl”, so Dirt Floor ends on a happy note. Fortunately, she’s a mystery — “I sense the memories on her skin,” he sings — which bodes well for the sequel, noisy or otherwise.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108


Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #15 May-June 1998

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »

From the Blogs

  • The Post-Newport Earthquake: Watkins Family Hour
    Did you feel it? That's what everybody in Los Angeles asks each other whenever a shake or quake rattles and rolls through the valleys and flatlands. Sometimes there's just a release of pressure beneath the crust, and other times it's an up and down jolt that lasts only a second. And then you forget about it. Until the next time.  Sunday night […]
  • Chris Isaak's Life Beyond the Sun
    In 2011, Chris Isaak took the long overdue step of recording an album at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tenn. It wasn't just any album, it was faithful interpretations of classic songs by his musical mentors and heroes: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. It didn’t take much of a leap of imagination to predict that the album would be […]
  • Carolina Story – Chapter Two (Album Review)
    Strong country duets from Nashville husband and wife The empathy shared by great duet singers can take your breath away. The ways in which a duo's voices complement, compete and provoke one another, the weaving of a harmony line above, below and around a melody, and the connection of two voices as they race around banked curves make listeners eavesdropp […]
  • Waylon, John Prine, Kinky, Gram Parsons ... Come Together
    Preface: This began as a foreword for a small collection of pictures and articles I am assembling for a book I plan to self-publish. As the memories piled on, the words accumulated into a short memoir and loose chronology of what happened in my life and on paper between 1967 and 1979. All of my No Depression offerings are referenced throughout this brief bio […]
  • Dave & Phil Alvin & the Guilty Ones – Dakota Jazz Club (Minneapolis, Minn. – July 26, 2014)
    “My brother Dave is a triple threat and I’m so proud of him – singer, songwriter, and guitar player.” That’s what Phil Alvin told a July 26 sellout crowd at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, Minn. The show was winding down but fans were totally pumped as the Alvin brothers exchanged pleasantries and showed no sign of their famed sibling rivalry after Dave […]
  • Celebrating 40 Years of Schoolkids Records: An Interview with Owner Stephen Judge
    This year marks the 40th anniversary of Watergate. That's not really anything to celebrate, it's not an accomplishment, and what's that got to do with music? Nothing. It simply marks the inevitable passage of time. But, 2014 also marks the 40th anniversary of Raleigh, N.C.'s Schoolkids Records, which is an accomplishment and is definitely […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!

Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter