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CD Review

'Living With the Law'; Chris Whitley; Columbia Records. A smattering of recent releases gives a taste of styles ranging from blues, folk, musical theater, classical, rap, and rock. The writers share 11 compact discs they find noteworthy.

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Perhaps the executives at Columbia Records have lost their minds: Rather than investing in the formulas of a conventional rock band, they've sunk money into the career of guitarist and songwriter Chris Whitley.Whitley's debut album, "Living With the Law," sticks to basics: dusty truck-stop rock-and-roll. The most soulful tunes on this album are those that Whitley plays and sings unaccompanied. But his songwriting is uneven and often dips into 7th-grade imagery. Woman characters have a limited and negative role. Whitley tours the US this fall as the warm-up performer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The tour may boost album sales as Whitley plays bigger arenas, but let's hope he doesn't change his hole-in-the-wall sound.

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