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Dan Whitley's Eagerly Awaited "Angels N Devils" Completed

Dan Whitley: Devilish blues guitarist

Dan Whitley: Devilish blues guitarist

There can be few better ways to begin your Labor Day weekend then a message like this from one of your favorite guitarists, the way I did last Friday: “Hey Iman, you wanna hear my new Cd ? it’s Not mastered yet and still gonna get Trixie on a song or two but it’s basically done.” The guitarist making the pleonastic statement was Dan Whitley and the album is one I’ve been waiting on since reviewing “Calling All Gods”  in 2012 and reviewing “Devil Is On Your Trail” nearly exactly a year ago. Both songs are on his debut solo album Angels N Devils

Without a release date yet, it’s a little early to write a full blown review but I was surprised how song oriented Angels N Devils is,  what I was expecting  was something a little more Allman Brothers, a little more jam oriented;  these ten slices of remembrances of a misspent youth and songs of loss and found, are Chess like in their brusqueness. The longest track is six minutes plus and even  at six minutes  the huge emotion packed “Calling All Gods” (“worrying about my family” is Dan’s simple explanation) is begging to be longer; it’s like the song has exiled itself on mainstreet.

The playing is clean, immaculate, perfect, very controlled, very at service to the song  and where Dan gets his hands dirty is on the vocal tour de force, amazing blues singing that barrels down on song after song and reaches its, and Angels n Devils, zenith with “Wade County Jail” . Dan explained to me:

“Funny it’s a true story …It really was Waco county jail …partying on my 21st birthday in Round Rock Texas (where I lived then), tried to outrun the Texas highway patrol, I past two cop cars, who clocked me doing 125mph and I put the pedal to the floor and ran them all the way from Round Rock to Waco …

“They couldn’t catch me, eventually radioed ahead, set up road blocks, which I blew threw as rows of cops opened fired on my car hitting tires and windshield …one bullet bounced off my windshield lined up perfectly with my face, it actually put a small hole in it but the angle was such that miraculously it bounced off. They yanked me from the car and pounded me (rightfully so) …I spent 17 days in Waco county jail and got a 125 mpg speeding ticket . They threw out the fleeing charge since they tried to kill me and all, back then there wasn’t any mandatory prison term for fleeing.”

“I spent the first part of my life a really messed up alcoholic/suicidal teen, homeless by choice most of the time …after turning 21 I spent years just trying to get my head together sober and be functional, and live clean and happy… It took a long time to undo a lot of damage done…

“All the songs are very personal and tell an important story for me.”

In that sense at least Angels N Devils is very much a first album, it has a major life statement feel to it. “Killing Floors” sounds like a big time blues love ballad with a taste of 60s pop group here and there, think the Animals, but what is it? “This song is about being in Saint Vincent’s suicide ward (which was one whole floor), I was 17, there was a Nun/patient who went berzerk and smashed her acoustic guitar, there were people coming back from Electroshock Treatments seemingly lobotomized and me getting lots of blow jobs in my room by the female folk.”  Or, as Freedy Johnston once put it, you have to write about something.

The album is very fresh, very alive, very very felt. Malcolm Burn, who won a  Grammy for Emmylou Harris’s masterpiece Red Dirt Girl and worked with Patti Smith on 1996’s Gone Again, one of her greatest achievements if only for the astounding paean to the recently departed Kurt Cobain “About A Boy”,  produced the album and then joined the band. Whitley again: “We didn’t use any modern digital methods to fix pitch or whatever and instrumentation are all natural and live recorded.  I hope that doesn’t work against it haha !! It’s still a professional record, recorded in Malcolm’s studio with killer gear and such. Just we wanted to do a concept record, for sort of a purity, make a roots/pop record the way they used to be made with a natural real vibe.”

I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait to hear Angels N Devils  but here is a link to a  snippet of “Wade County Jail” that Malcolm posted and Dan gave me permission to repost to whet your appetite for self destruction!

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