Bill Paul’s First Tuesday of Every Month: Daniel Lanois & Black Dub
“Humble Beginnings & Stratospheric Accomplishments”
The musical influence that is Daniel Lanois hit me hard this weekend, and not for the first time. As I was thumbing through some old wax in preparation for our annual Vinylwe’en Party, I came across a real gem from 1979, a 45 by The Shakers “Till I’m Gone” and b-sided with “Out the Door” engineered and produced by Hamilton’s own Daniel Lanois at his now famous Grant Avenue Studios. Then in a post-party haze on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I viewed Black Dub’s “I Believe in You” proclaiming its gutsy ‘live off the floor’ one takes magic. Black Dub is Lanois’ latest project and includes bassist Daryl Johnson (among his many credits may be best known for making MVTW creator and fellow bassist Jay Moon ‘wet’), drummer Brian Blade (Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band as well as standard operating procedure for Lanois) and emerging talent, vocalist Trixie Whitley (daughter of the late Chris Whitley – a long time Lanois friend). In less than 30 hours, I was reminded of more than 30 years of innovative musical undertakings which has resulted in the release of what are rapidly becoming some of my generation’s most seminal albums.
What are these accomplishments? How about producing this pantheon of musical icons: Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Willie Nelson, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris and U2 to name but a few. Among the many awards for these projects: Dylan’s “Time Out of Mind” and U2’s “The Joshua Tree” garnered Grammys for Album of the Year and Emmylou Harris’ “Wrecking Ball” won yet another Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album – all this from a man who began honing his production skills with his brother Bob from their Ancaster, Ontario basement. Add to this list the following Canadian artists: Ray Materick, Parachute Club, Martha & The Muffins, Raffi, Luba and most recently Neil Young and it is clear Lanois’ beginnings are dear to him.
If this wasn’t impressive enough, Lanois has created a sonic legacy on the other side of the glass as well with more than double digit albums and soundtracks to his credit including “Acadie”, “Shine”, “The Omni Series” and the soundtrack for Slingblade. Daniel’s creative efforts have also spilled over in to the visual realm. This will not come as a surprise to those who have attended his live performances and enjoyed the strategic role video plays in his concerts, or who have recently visited his website’s homepage (daniellanois.com) or are aware of his multimedia effort at this year’s Nuit Blanche in Toronto.
His 2007 documentary “Here Is What Is” chronicled the making of the like-named album and was premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. I was fortunate enough to attend the premier at Queen Street’s storied Great Hall. In the film, Dan characterized Brian Eno, his friend and long time partner in musical labour, as someone “operating in a relatively quiet way” yet having a significant impact on modern music. I would suggest Lanois too functions in this ‘quiet way’ and brings the best out of the people with whom he works as well as embracing technology to serve up sounds and experiences which are viscerally engineered. This last phrase is not an oxymoron. Just listen.
Black Dub’s self-titled first album is available in stores today.
By: Bill Paul