If you heard about an artist from Compton, what kind of music would you assume that artist plays? Rap would probably be a good guess. After all, one of the most famous rap albums is called Straight Outta Compton. Well, Exzavier Whitley is from Compton, but he sure doesn't sound anything like NWA. In fact, his style and sound is a lot closer to Bruce Springsteen than anything in the world of rap - particularly Springsteen's solo albums like Nebraska and Devils and Dust. The similarity is mostly in the vocals. Whitley's vocals aren't quite as gruff as The Boss', but he sings with the same muted - almost hoarse - voice that Springsteen displays on those solo albums.
The first song listed on his ReverbNation page is "Where To (Looking for Me)," and his guitar picking in this song is outstanding. Frankly, it's not just that song either. In all of his songs, he does pretty impressive work on the guitar. His fingerpicking makes for a rich sound. If you want another great display of Whitley's fingerpicking prowess, check out "Drifting Away." When you listen to this one, it's hard to believe that it's just one guy with one guitar. This is the kind of playing that inspires young people to pick up a guitar and learn how to play.
While in some songs, he is reminiscent of Springsteen, there is another song called "How Will You Be", in which the guitar sounds a lot like Paul Simon. It's hard not to think about "59th Street Bridge Song" when you hear this one.
Most of the songs on the ReverbNation page are just Whitley with the guitar. However, a change of pace comes with "Catch the Wind." This song features some muted piano that gives the song a kind of sweet sadness.
Whitley's songs are short, but they are incredibly well done. He has incredible talent as a musician and a songwriter. You'll want to listen to his songs more than once for a couple reasons. First, because the songs are so short, you really need multiple times with them just so you can absorb them. Second, you'll want to listen to his songs more than once just to appreciate the guy's talents. If you like what you hear on his ReverbNation page, you're in luck. He will release an EP soon which will be available on CD or in a digital download for $3.99 on CD Baby.