Kentucky Bluebird

When 33-year-old Keith Whitley went on a fatal alcoholic bender in 1989, he left behind three soon-to-be-gold albums that proved he had developed into one of the most affecting and heartfelt interpreters in modern country music. This posthumous collection, culled from family archives, record vaults, demo shelves, and interviews dating back to a Charleston, W. Va., radio performance at age 8, follows Whitley’s beginnings as a bluegrass musician, as he borrowed the raw emotional immediacy of bluegrass and the heedlessness of honky-tonk to forge his own neotraditionalist style. Although this isn’t a greatest-hits package — only three of these tracks, including the swingy ”Lucky Dog,” were previously released — Kentucky Bluebird does contain some of Whitley’s best moments on record, including many emotive vocal tracks preserved from an unreleased 1987 album and paired here with crisp new instrumental backings. Producer Garth Fundis says he deliberately stayed away from Whitley’s more melancholy material, but if ”Between an Old Memory and Me” doesn’t tear your heart out, you’d better take that stone to a cardiologist. A

Kentucky Bluebird
  • Music