By Al Kaufman
There is a lot in a name. A name can be a hindrance and a help. In Trixie Whitley’s case, it is both. The name “Trixie” may conjure up a Southern girl yodeling and drawling her way through the wonders of trailer park life. But Whitley was born in Belgium, was an accomplished drummer, dancer and actor by her teen years, and, with a voice as rich as a homemade beef stew, served as lead vocalist for Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub. She currently resides in New York City, but has lived and traveled all over the globe and is certainly as worldly as they come.
Then there’s that last name. Texan Chris Whitley, Trixie’s dad, made a name for himself in 1991 with the release of Living with the Law. Featuring “Big Sky Country,” the album was filled with country-tinged blues rock in which the elder Whitley could showcase his guitar skills. He moved in different directions before his untimely death in 2005 from lung cancer, and is widely respected among his peers as a great blues guitarist and singer/songwriter. Seems like a lot for a girl to live up to.
But the younger Whitley does an admirable job of embracing her past and blazing on toward the future on her first full-length CD. The phrasings and tunings on “Never Enough,” and the big fuzzy guitar of “Hotel No Name” recall her father, but there’s also a whole lot more on here.
The blue-eyed soul and passion of songs like “Irene” and “Need Your Love,” would please any Adele fan. Whitley brings in some tribal, hypnotic drum and bass on “Silent Rebel Pt. 2,” in which she talks through the bridge part in full Patti Smith fashion.
There are some big fat torch songs, such as “Breathe You in My Dreams” and “Morelia,” that showcase Whitley’s powerful and passionate vocals, but they sometimes get caught up in their sentimentality and become a little too American Idol-ish. But she will grow and she will learn. She’s got the talent, the desire, and the pedigree.