'Living With the Law'; Chris Whitley; Columbia Records. A smattering of recent releases gives a taste of styles ranging from blues, folk, musical theater, classical, rap, and rock. The writers share 11 compact discs they find noteworthy.
Perhaps the executives at Columbia Records have lost their minds: Rather than investing in the formulas of a conventional rock band, they've sunk money into the career of guitarist and songwriter Chris Whitley.Whitley's debut album, "Living With the Law," sticks to basics: dusty truck-stop rock-and-roll. The most soulful tunes on this album are those that Whitley plays and sings unaccompanied. But his songwriting is uneven and often dips into 7th-grade imagery. Woman characters have a limited and negative role. Whitley tours the US this fall as the warm-up performer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The tour may boost album sales as Whitley plays bigger arenas, but let's hope he doesn't change his hole-in-the-wall sound.