[9 January 2011]
Picture walking into a small smoky jazz bar off the beaten path in New Orleans, only to hear what seems to be an undiscovered gem of band playing. It’s not difficult to imagine the stage filled by Black Dub, a venerable supergroup of legendary musicians including legendary rock producer/musician Daniel Lanois (producer of U2, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Peter Gabriel), Louisiana-based bassist Daryll Johnson (Neville Brothers, Emmylou Harris), and New Orleans-based drummer Brian Blade (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock), rounded out by crooning songstress Trixie Whitley, daughter of late blues virtuoso Chris Whitley. Whitley is the break out star of this quartet; her sultry, sexy pipes are evocative of Etta James and Stevie Nicks—a transformational eargasm that holds your hand as you both slip down the rabbit hole.
Black Dub’s self-titled album is one of the most delightful and eclectic mixes of sleek and seductive music produced in quite some time. A perfect combination of rock, blues, jazz, funk, dub, reggae, gospel and soul, the band demonstrates unique musicianship in each song while never losing the listener in transition from track to track, constructing a seamless sequential flow. This album exemplifies Black Dub’s diverse talent while giving the listener what they crave: lyrical poetry and beautiful melodies. Infested with artistry and emotion, each song illustrates the epitome of passion. There is angst in “Love Lives”: “I want to live where love lives/ I can’t take if I can’t give/ Love lives in the sound they make/ In the tears of a thousand rains”. There is joy in “I Believe in You”: “I can walk through the doors of time/ Scale any wall and cross any line/ I can send any thought to the end of the finger/ And burn any knot with a kiss.” Stylistically, there are sex-doused guitar riffs in “Slow Baby”; there is vintage blues in “Nomad”; eve nroots-rock reggae in “Canaan” (very reminiscent to Paul Simon’s “Graceland”). Most impressive is “Surely”, a soulful love song with a hint of gospel: “You command my hand to write/ In the dark hours of deep midnight/ Your love is love, a love like no other/ Wings of joy flutter.” While listening to and discussing Black Dub, it’s unavoidable to reference classic, music history-altering bands, ranging from Led Zeppelin to The Eurhythmics. Now take a listen to Black Dub. In embracing so many styles, they have, in a sense, created their own category.
If this hasn’t convinced you, let me leave you with this an excerpt from the man himself, Daniel Lanois: “We do not operate on a technological grid. Nor are we tied to a page of fixed notes. Our songs are fluid, often recorded live. One take. No overdubs. It is a very old fashioned idea really.” Black Dub defines musicianship at its finest. In some ways, it’s an instant classic, a simple humanistic exploration of emotion that touches the soul with every strum, beat and lyric.