Flying Low, But Soaring
This is one of the strongest cover to cover albums I have heard for a while. Released in 2010, the band features more-than-solid drumming and bass from, respectively, Brian Blade and Daryl Johnson – funk and reggae rhythms underpinning most of what is played [listen to their tight performance on second track I Believe In You] – but the two star acts are without question dynamite if diminutive singer Trixie Whitley, daughter of the late Chris Whitley, and distinctive guitar from the great Daniel Lanois who also provides vocals and keyboards.
Opener Love Lies provides signature Lanois guitar laying a swathe of sound throughout, and Whitley’s voice, often echoed, dominates powerfully over the sweet background vocals. Second I Believe In You has that pulsating reggae beat at the start, introducing an even more sultry and sassy Whitley vocal to ride the strutting bass line. Third Ring The Alarm is introduced at length with classic Lanois soundscapes, and then becomes an 80s-esque pop song carrying this anti-80s listener along by those guitar loops and echoes. Fourth Last Time returns to a more gutsy number, funked-up rhythms and soulful singing from both Lanois and Whitley: the guitar here stabbing rather than layering. Fifth Surely is a more conventional ballad with Whitley ploughing deeply with her impressive voice.
Seventh Slow Baby provides a mesmerising masterclass in Lanois guitar work. It is superb. Eighth Silverado is a gospel’n’reggae amalgam driven by the Whitley voice – and her 2009 EP The Engine is worth a listen to hear more of this clear talent, as are the many clips on YouTube that feature her playing guitar, sometimes with Lanois - and these predominantly live sessions add to the impressive experience of her emerging talent.
The album closes on an instrumental, Sirens, and again the Lanois guitar and effects production is hypnotic in its brief repetitions. A truly wonderful album, perhaps flying under the musical radar, but soaring as an aural signal.