Favorite albums of 2010: Black Dub’s self-titled debut.

Next, I loved the yet under appreciated debut of Daniel Lanois’ new band, Black Dub.  I have been a fan of Lanois for years, best known as a producer for the likes of U2, Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan.  His solo records have been sporadic in light of his other creative pursuits, but generally beautiful.  His 1989 “Acadie” was one of the truly great albums of the last 30 years in popular music (just note the sheer number of other artists to reproduce his extraordinary spiritual odyssey “The Maker”), while his moody 2003 “Shine” remains my personal favorite (I refuse to read Pitchfork because they gave it a mediocre review, and I decided they were pretentious imbeciles).

This time around, he recruited long-time collaborator Brian Blade on drums, Daryl Johnson on bass, and the phenom Trixie Whitley on vocals.  I can’t think of anybody who is making music quite like Black Dub right now, or even where to begin making comparisons.  I can say that with some great new flavors, it is still quintessentially Lanois with its soulfulness, attention to ambience, and ongoing fascination with steel guitar.  In no small part due to Lanois’ creative connection with Blade, gospel is one of the most prominent ingredients of Black Dub’s debut: “Canaan” is the most moving track on the album in its aching spiritual search (“How far am I from Caanan?/How far I am from joy, from joy?”), while the throwback “Sing” is a jubilant hymn (“Sing for the Holy Ghost/sing for yourself/sing for the blue sky above”).  What Whitley brings to the trademark grooves and shades of gospel of Lanois is sensuality–the record moves between spirituality and sensuality with uncommon ease.  If there is a weakness here, it is only that not unlike some of Lanois’ solo projects (like his most recent, “Here is What is”), his promiscuous musical interests can make for a collection of songs more so than a complete record, especially when he wanders off into long guitar jams (i.e. the sinfully delicious funk of “Slow Baby”).  But if Black Dub occasionally feels like a musical buffet, it’s no golden corral–every flavor is welcome and every entree tastes good, so that’s not necessarily a complaint.

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