Likened to Bob Dylan, Chris Whitley's music is deeply informed by blues.
At the age of 15, he began playing guitar, inspired by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix, eventually learning how to play slide guitar. He quit high school a year before graduation, moving to New York City, where he busked on the streets. One of his performances was witnessed by a listener who ran a travel agency, and decided that Whitley would be a success in Belgium and offered to send him to Europe. With nothing to lose, Whitley accepted the offer.
Once in Belgium, Whitley recorded a series of albums that flip-flopped between blues, rock and funk. The records made him a minor success in Belgium, but he decided to return to New York anyway in 1990. He happened to meet producer Daniel Lanois later that year. Impressed by Whitley's songs, Lanois helped set up a deal with Columbia Records for the songwriter, and produced his first album. Released in the spring of 1991, Whitley's U.S. debut Living with the Law was an atmospheric set of blues and folk-rock that received glowing reviews and earned him a slot opening for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Whitley released Terra Incognita, which combined elements of his first two records. Dirt Floor followed on Messenger Records in 1998 and was also released in Australia on Rubber Records in 1999, restoring Whitley to a level of critical acclaim that rivalled his early work.