Not even a heavy motorcycle crash accident can prevent Daniel Lanois
from doing what he does best, and better than mostmaking music or helping other people make music. He is simply bulletproof to whatever circumstances slap his face, be they bad or good. During his recovery period, after the intensive care following the accident, he produced Neil Young
's stellar and sonically charged Le Noise
(Reprise, 20101), wrote his memoirs, Soul Mining
(Faber and Faber, 2010), he made his own music with a new band, Black Dub. The devotion and passion he invests in everything he does make him jump over every fence and obstacle to achieve magic.
Black Dub's music tumbles down, and spills out of the speakers in the form of unpolished and unrefined music that blurs the boundaries of folk, rock, dub reggae, blues and funk into a beautiful blend. The band is actually Lanois' old recording/touring unitbassist Daryl Johnson and drummer Brian Blade
coupled with newcomer/lead singer Trixie Whitley. Lanoiswho wrote all but one track (the group composition, "The Last Time"is largely in the background, guiding the band and singing backing vocals, with the exception of two tracks, where he's upfront.
As on Lanois' previous records, nothing sounds rushed and everything progresses at its own, gradual pace. Black Dub
kicks off with "Love Lives," a track that is both deeply emotional and inviting, a well-constructed, mid-tempo folkloric pop tune with reggae shadings, good singing and reflective lyrics. "I Believe in You" is done in a crossover reggae manner, with playful rhythms that give it a truly distinct flavor. "The Last Time" welcomes Blade's father, Brady Blade, Sr., on lead vocals. The Black Dub treatment of this impassioned and upbeat gospel tunefrom the 2008 movie Here Is What Is
, and heard on the accompanying soundtrack
(Red Floor Record, 2008)makes it almost unrecognizable, while still beautiful.
Showcasing Whitley's wonderfully expressive voice and Lanois' austere but tuneful writing, she shines especially on "Silverado" and "Nomad." Lanois takes the lead vocals on "Canaan" and "Sing," two joyful semi gospel tracks. "Sing" stands out; a playfully funky track, with background vocals providing a gospel flavor. Its rhythm and tempo closely resemble Bob Dylan
's "Dignity," though "Sing" has a more New Orleans touch. The album closes with one of two instrumental tracks, "Sirens," where tortured guitar swirlings sound like air raid sirens.
A rough and unpolished diamond that's good at high volumes, the sonically dense Black Dub
echoes Lanois' moody noir production, greatly aided by his atmospheric guitar twanging and fills, Blade's masterfully lopsided drums, Johnson's punchy bass lines, and Whitley's soulful vocals. Though Lanois has been involved in all kinds of sonically experimental records of various genres, the human touch is always what matters. It is still human beings playing, shaping and painting the music.