Daniel Lanois – Artist & Producer Extraordinaire

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Daniel Lanois, artist and producer extraordinaire, is a lover of sound–
unique sounds, intricately textured and layered so to create an aura that seems to cast a spell over the vision of the artists he is working with. His sound is moody, thick at times, but always with the intention of boosting the artist he is working with to a new level.

Lanois started playing with sounds at a young age with his brother in their basement and has been working his craft to the point that you can now almost tell it’s a Lanois produced track. His resume has grown into a who’s who of legends. Looking back over the last thirty years, it’s hard to find another producer who has left his imprint so profoundly on so many artists. The list of Lanois’ accomplishments is long: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, U2, Willie Nelson, Peter Gabriel, The Neville Brothers, Emmy Lou Harris, Robbie Robertson, Chris Whitley, and Rocco Deluca create a list of super talent unparalleled when looked at as a whole.

Lately, Lanois has been busy. 2010 saw him chronicle his life so far in the memoirs he entitled Soul Mining. The book charts his extremely over-productive life, from his upbringing in Canada through his work with a laundry list of music legends. Recently he has been touring with his new band Black Dub. The album features the respective talent of vocalist Trixie Whitley. Whitley (the daughter of blues man Chris Whitley) uses a vocal that leans on jazz, but is heavily steeped in the blues. Whitley’s vocals serve as the focal point of Lanois’ new direction and, combined with the talented rhythm section of Brian Blades on drums and Daryl Johnson on bass, create an extremely organic sound. Below is my favorite track off the new Black Dub record, a stunning version of “I Believe In You” followed by a top 5 look at Lanois’ greatest accomplishments.

5. Living With The Law – Chris Whitley
Whitley was a little known player who Lanois snatched up, took under his wing, and made a stand out record with. Living With The Law features Whitley’s mastery of the slide guitar and vocals that can cut glass. A raw sound wrapped in Lanois’ production gave Whitley a stage to shape his talents.

4. Yellow Moon – The Neville Brothers
Lanois was hanging in New Orleans and who better to work with than the first family of the New Orleans sound, The Neville Brothers. On Yellow Moon, he was able to capture all the colors and sounds that make The Neville Brothers the treasure they are. The stand out tracks are the ones where Aaron guides his silky soul tones over two Dylan covers, singing them like they were written for his vocal chords. An amazing record with amazing depth.

3. Wrecking Ball – Emmylou Harris
A sonic triumph that gave life to a voice that for the longest time fell out of the spotlight she most rightfully deserved. Lanois immersed Emmylou Harris in his world of sound and birthed the magnificent record Wrecking Ball. The writing is superb, Neil Young guests on a few tracks, and Emmylou comes shining through like an angel on high.

2. Time Out Of Mind – Bob Dylan
Though he worked with Dylan years earlier on Oh Mercy, Lanois hit the jackpot with Time Out Of Mind and the sonic atmosphere he created to support some of Dylan’s greatest writing in years. Moody pieces with sparse playing surrounded Dylan’s pondering about the later stages of life to create one of Dylan’s finest records. And that… is saying a lot.

1. Joshua Tree – U2
Though Lanois first worked with U2 on The Unforgettable Fire, his work with Brian Eno on The Joshua Tree can be seen as the band’s masterpiece. His ability to construct space between the lines created an intimacy in U2’s performance, allowing the band to explore the roots of American Music. Easily some of U2’s finest writing, the album seemed to perfectly capture the band at its prime.

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