Ladies and gentlemen, “I Believe in You,” by Black Dub.
Black Dub has Daniel Lanois on guitar, piano and lap steel; Trixie Whitley on vocals and a bit of drums; Daryl Johnson on bass; and Brian Blade on drums. What a band. Although Daniel Lanois is known for his wizardry behind the console as a producer, the Black Dub debut album feels raw most of the time as if the effects were turned off so we could focus more on the band playing off each other. I listened to the album at least once a day every day for the first month I had it. It left a huge impression on me. They’ve posted several videos recorded Live Off The Floor.
I put Jolie Holland in the same class as Bob Dylan and Tom Waits because of her ability to assimilate traditional music into a sound and style that is singularly her own. She also happens to have an unusual voice that, not unlike Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, doesn’t exactly have mass appeal. One reviewer said she sings like she’s got a mouth full of marbles. Maybe, but she makes it work. Her music first fell into a folky weird bluesy category and has gradually moved towards a more full-on band rock sound, kinda like Bob Dylan. Every album builds on what came before it and, although she doesn’t hit pay dirt every time, it’s usually pretty damn good. The first song of hers to grab me was the ghostly Wandering Angus. Her interpretation of Pure Imagination is way out there too. But I’ll pick “Mexico City” because I don’t know what else to pick.
P.S.: The Daytrotter Sessions from 2007 and 2009 are essential Jolie Holland recordings, perhaps more so than any of her albums. It’s the best sample of her music I’ve found online. Wolfgang’s Vault has performances of some of her latest songs.
Years ago I got stuck in the back of a car during a road trip with some friends who played early heavy-on-the-harmonica Bob Dylan non-stop for about three days, and I just about lost my mind. That experience prevented me from getting on board the Bob Dylan bus until he released Time Out of Mind in 1997. I still don’t listen to much early Dylan, but I’ve come to appreciate the overall body of his work and his development as an artist, how he absorbs (and steals from) traditional music and makes it singularly his own. (I like Tom Waits and Jolie Holland in the same way.) He’s a master vocalist and lyricist too. I don’t know what most of his songs are about but they’re about something and it draws me in. I like how his songs are open to interpretation. You can take what you like from them regardless of his original intention. I’d pick “Moonshiner” as the first song of his that made a strong impression on me, but I can’t find that anywhere on YouTube, so I’ll pick “Things Have Changed” instead.
(It was a toss up between “Things Have Changed” and Mississippi.) I also admire Dylan for playing his music the way he wants to play it. Instead of replicating the studio versions on stage — which seems to piss off a certain segment of his audience who’d rather hear “Like a Rolling Stone” exactly like it sounds on the album — he’s always trying new things with his songs during live performances, often completely transforming them. Here’s a bootleg video for “Things Have Changed” that doesn’t sound anything like the studio version. I love that.
Greg Brown is a storyteller. He’s what I like most about folk type musicians: He’s down to earth. He could be flashy and famous, but he shows up on stage and sits down to play his guitar and tells stories, like the one in “Canned Goods,” about specific but ordinary and every day things. He excels at keeping it real.