By James Calemine
Daniel Lanois, best known for his production work with Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Chris Whitley, the Neville Brothers, U2 and even Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade, recently assembled a powerful group called Black Dub. Lanois serves as producer, songwriter and guitarist on Black Dub’s self-titled debut.
His longtime rhythm section—drummer Brian Blade and bassist Daryl Johnson–provide the backbone to these eleven compositions. The late Chris Whitley’s daughter—Trixie—plays keyboards and sings lead vocals. Recorded in Toronto, these hypnotic songs bear the Lanois production trademark. The musical alchemy from Black Dub conjures elements of blues, rock, soul, R&B, funk and reggae.
“Love Lives” opens the sequence with a subterranean sway. Clearly, Trixie Whitley inherited her father’s vocal soul. She’s an amazing singer after the heart of soul legend Ann Peebles. “I Believe In You”, a moody R & B number, showcases this band’s multi-form dynamic.
“Ring The Alarm” contains the trademark ‘high-ceiling’ Lanois sonic atmosphere. Like most of his albums, this song sequence coalesces a cohesive mood. Johnson wrote “Last time”—a cavernous blues-funk diamond that grooves in a timeless glory, which counts as one of Black Dub’s strongest tracks.
“Surely” serves as a sad, but redemptive tune that Whitley sings in a way that many of the soul sisters on STAX Records would applaud. An urban groove propels “Nomad”, which might have served as a hit on the historic Hi Records. “Slow Baby”, a murky space-blues, evokes images of lunar landscapes or opium dens…
“Silverado”, written by Trixie Whitley, emits a ‘one-drop’ magic that acts like a calming musical medicine. “Sing” represents the finest composition on Black Dub. The band augments reggae beats and gospel melodies into heart-rending memorable soulful song. “Sirens”, an eerie guitar instrumental, ends Black Dub with a potent dose of mojo.
Spend some time under the control of Black Dub…