Chris Whitley | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Chris Whitley

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Erstwhile folk-blues revivalist Chris Whitley has called his latest album, Soft Dangerous Shores (Messenger), a "Eurotrash folk-blues thing." That's not a surprising concept coming from Whitley--who once recorded a banjo-driven cover of Kraftwerk's "The Model"--but many of his new songs do in fact sound like Robert Johnson hooking up with a gloomy synth-pop band at a crossroads in Dresden. His electric and acoustic guitar playing alternates between icy starkness and deep-muck ooze, and producer Malcolm Burn brings a claustrophobic, restive mood to the songs. Burn's synths evoke metallic sparks, rumbling explosions, and blasts of arctic wind while Whitley mutters, gasps, and moans beneath the maelstrom. Occasionally a coherent theme emerges--"Medicine Wheel" is a prayer for healing with layered percussion that echoes Native American sacred drumming--but most of Whitley's lines read like Burroughs-esque cut-ups, where disconnected images combine to create a postapocalyptic aura. The title track describes two lovers entwined and trapped "behind burning doors," while "Her Furious Angels" suggests looming catastrophe: "If something falls from overhead / I'm only all disarmed." Sat 8/6, 7 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494 or 800-594-8499, $15.

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