TRIXIE COMES OF AGE
Daniel Lanois' new band Black Dub
What do you do next if you're Daniel Lanois? You've produced Dylan, Neil Young, and Peter Gabriel, showed U2 the ropes, mastered the guitar and written some pretty mean songs including producing and writing some of Brandon Flowers' new stuff...I mean, how do you follow your own act?
Black Dub is Lanois' new band and you need to hear 'em. Their eponymous album "Black Dub" was released about a year ago, and I had a chance to catch one of their first shows in New York, and saw them again at Bonnaroo this past summer. The Bowery Ballroom is a staple for quality performers in Manhattan's gritty Bowery District. The band's take from the 300 or so in the sold-out audience probably wouldn't pay for a day's lease on the luxury motorhome parked outside - presumably the band's, but when you've got a pedigree like Daniel Lanois, you're probably not counting pennies.
"I'm not sure if I want to f**k her or feed her..." I overheard this comment from a couple of guys near the stage talking about the capitvating, passionate, slender young lead singer Trixie Whitley, and it took me back 700 miles and almost a dozen years to the summer of 1999 when I was fortunate to see her father Chris Whitley at Martyr's in Chicago. Whitley was a tortured, incredibly gifted guitar player and songwriter whose chops on his National resonator have to be heard to be believed. He burst onto the music scene in the early nineties with his critically acclaimed album "Living With The Law" with some help from Lanois. He died in 2005 at the tender age of 45 after a difficult journey sprinkled with some of my favotite recordings ever. At the Martyrs' show, which was released as a live album and which you should buy immediately, I remember talking to a girl in the audience who expressed a similarly odd mix of arousal and maternal instinct watching the senior Whitley...she said something like his reed-thin heroin-addict look turned her on but made her want to mother him.
Trixie is also thin with bobbed blonde hair, pale but healthy and Germanic looking. I saw her play a solo show last summer at the tiny Rockwood Music Hall in NY's lower east side and was blown away. She's got a set of pipes like I haven't heard since Joss Stone showed an early but brief flash without Stones' immaturity and self possessedness. Trixie looks like she's genuinely honored to be on stage, and is pretty comfortable there -- she should be having grown up in Belgium and New York performing for most of her life. If you want to experience goose bumps, search YouTube for "whitely, serve you" and listen as she joins the stage a couple of years ago for a tribute to her father, signing his seminal "Someday I will serve you" - I just got chills now while writing about it.
There's no doubt during the Black Dub show just who is in charge. Lanois, through barely perceptible expressions and gestures controls the performance as deftly as a symphony conductor, although he hardly looks the part. What the looks most like is the Adam Arkin character from the old Northern Exposure television show, thick full closely cropped beard, thick woolen knit cap, and a shit eating smile looks like someone who is smarter than everyone else and knows something that nobody else present knows (because he does). The music contains elements of gospel harmony, huge impressive vocals from multi-instrumentalist Trixie, (guitar, drums, keyboards) and classic soul, blended together to form something sultry and all it's own.
Check out their website, www.blackdub.net, and watch the masterpiece, "I believe in you" - you'll believe in Black Dub.
by Mike "Lono" Raff