This seventeen-song set makes an effective introduction to Chris Whitley. His first appearance on the scene found him treading a rootsy path, infusing his blues-based songs, singing and guitar playing with remarkably deep resonance. Subsequent forays into loudly electric realms may have confounded purists, but it all comes off with utter believability.
Long Way Around draws from five albums and includes rarities and potent demos. On solo numbers he accompanies himself on a National Steel guitar; band settings offer a variety of approaches to arrangement. “Big Sky Country” from 1991 and “Say Goodbye” from a decade later both show him willing and able to temper the powerfully stark character of his songs with big, broad production strokes.
Whitley is able to bring the piercing moan of solitude and longing to a grand scale, losing none of the intimacy in the process. Delta blues, Hendrixian aplomb and even dashes of Prince-like swagger course through this music, which stands with one foot in the cerebral and the other in the physical.